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Printed for M^ir. Millar, Vaillant, Baldwin, CrowderJ, 
JoHHSTOK, DuosLEY, and Wi t s ON and. Du R H A M. 



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Vol. II. B 


THE tragedy is a continuation of the Iphigenia in Aulis ; and, 
in order to fupply the incidents on which it 'is founded, 
the author was obliged to follow pretty clofely the fable of the for- 
mer tragedy. It is there fuppofed, that a hind was fubftituted in 
the place of Iphigenia at the altar; and that {heherfdf was carried 
up to heaven. But the poet in this piece, fliews her in Tauris ♦ 
in Scythia, whither flie was tranfported by Diana to be her prief- 
tcis. The Greeks were ignorant of her fate, and Oreftcs believed 
Ihe died by the hand of Calchas. That young prince being tor- 
mented by the furies for having killed Clytemneftra his mother, 
goes to Tauris by the command of Apollo, to bring away the fta^ 
tue of Diana, and .ta place it in Attica. He is taken priibner im- 
mediately after his arrival in Tauris, and deftined to be facrificed 
on the altar of Diana, according to the barbarous cuftom of the 
place. In the inftant when the prieftefs is preparing to facrifice 
him> he'difcovers her to be his fifter, which produces all thoie af- 
fecting fituations, and thofc great eveats with which this tragedy 

* Tauris, a country or peninfula of fea, and the Propontis. The Euxinc it now. 
Thrace, which juts out heween the Euxine called the black fira. 

B 2 PER- 




llie Chorus, compofedpflphigenia's WQicaea. 
A Shepherd. 

ThoA6. kingofTattris. 
A Messenosr, one «f tk&kiog^s atwugiv^. 


The SCENE » in the Veftibide of the Tomple of Diana. 




S C E N E the F I R S T. 



AH, AWttchcdlphigenia, muft thy misfordmes be everpre- 
fent-tc thy remembrance ! Alas, how is it poffible I ihould 
forget ihat fatal day, when I arrived in Aulis ? that celc- 
l>rated p0rt,.i<^hefe rfie Euripus fweUedby the raging winds, whirls 
round the ^iddy veffels, and threatens each mom^it to bury them 
in the vaft abyfs. There my father, my rekntlefs father^ offered 
me avi&kn to Diana. Thehero, detennined to revenge the wrongs 
his brotiberMenelaus had fufFcred, to efface the infamy of Helena, 
and to crown the Greeks with the conqueft of Ilion, ailembled 
his numerous fleet, a thoufand fhips, owned his conmiand ; but 
unfavourable winds oppofed his departure, and delayed the glory 
of Greece. He confalts the facred fire 5 he queftions Calchas. 
** King of th& Greeks, -replies the prieft, know that thefe (hips 
" Ihall be detained in this port, till thy daughter Iphigcnia is.of- 
** fered a vidtim to Diana*. Remember your former vow, by 
** which you obliged yourfclf to facrifice upon the altar of the 

— * ' » ■na il I I ■ ■ ■ ' • I t m^mriktutitmmamtmmmt^^^mmmiitiammmm^mimmm^ 

* Diana isin the lent oiled «*w^flc^ *•#* ^biith» jind allegorictl fenfe is tskea 
DtaLMa/trai becaufe (he prefided over child- for the moon. 

2 •* god- 


** goddefs, the moft beautiful produ<5lion of the year. The year 
** was diftingiufhed by the birtn of Iphigenia. It is your daugh* 
" ter, then, whom you muft facrifice." Inhuman prieft ; he gave, 
me the fuperiority in beauty, to give me death. Thus authorized 
by an oracle, the crafty Ulyfles inatched me from the anas of my 
mother : I was condu<^ed to Aulis, under pretence of being mar- 
ried to Achilles ; but Icarce am I arrived, when I am laid upon the 
funeral pile, the fatal fword is pointed at my breads andCalchas 
ftrikes tne vidim. But Diana preferved my forfeit life ; the goddefs. 
fubilituted a hind in my place, and transported me through the air 
to Tauris. Here I found a barbarous people, governed by » baf^ 
barous monarch. Thoas his name * ; a name expreflive of his 
fwiftoefs^ which may be compared to the flight of birds. Here- 
mv employment is to fuperintend the facrifices -, a facred office,, 
wnich, alas, I oiight to be contented with ; my refped for the 
goddefs forbids me to compbun. For here the flkve of a cuftom^ 
as antient as it is cruel, I, (ah, how can I ipeak it !) I facrifice: 
all thofe Greeks whpfe unhappy fortune brings them to this land. 
It is I who perform the firft ritesr, and initiate the wretched vie* 
timts. Such is my fad office : but other hands give them the fatal* 
ftroke, and fprinkle with their blood the palace of the dread goddefs. 
But oh, thefe are not my only miferies 1 Hear me, ye eccnoes :*f* ; 
for to you will I relate the dream that terrified me laft night, and 
which ftiU dwells upon my troubled fancy. I dreamed I was far 
from thefe difmal regions,, and returned to Argos,. my native 
country. Methought I lay fleeping in. my own apartment, fur* 
rounded by my women, when fiiddenly a violent motion (hook 
the earth. I rofe, I fled; andinflantly the vaulted roofs fell in, the 
walls all tumbled down, and the whole palace was overthrown : 
one pillar only of our ancient houfe remained : it had human: hair^ 
methought, and a human voice. I drew near it,, and^. full of thie 
idea of my fad employment, I wept,, while I wafhcd this dear 
pillar, as a vidim deftinecb ifor the facrifice. Ah! 'tis. too plain, 
Orefles, my deareft brother, is no more ! This is the purport of my 
dream. He was the pillar and fupport of nxy family. I have 
iprinkled him with the facred water : needs tnei^ more. Alas f 
I have np other friend to whom I can apply this fatal dream; 

^ Ao^ figoifies fwift in tbc race, a great excellence among the ancient Greeks. 
\ In Greek, tbe w« - 

7 StrcK 


Strophius^Iknow; but he had no fon when I was led to death. Let 
me men pay^ at leaft^ the laft fad honours to a brother, whom I (hall 
never, never behold again. Where are my women, thofe young 
Grecians whom Thoas gave me ? they (hall affift the melancholy 
ceremony : but why do they not appear yet in the temple ? what 
is it detains them ? [Slfe gees wt to look for them.] 



Look round my friend, obferve whether any peribn is near us. 


My eyes have alreadv examined well the place ; no one is here ; 
all is filence and iblitude. 

Is not this^ my dear Pylades, the temple of Diana, near which 
we landed? 

It is : you fhould know it as well as I. 

Here, then, is that fatal altar, which ftreams continually with 
Grecian Uood. 

The chapitre *f of the altar is red. 

Behold thefe {polls, which are hung round the arch of the altar. 


i Thefe are the miferable remains of Grecian viftims. 


* Stophias was king of Phocis, and fit- t r» wiftAmat. . The word here Cgnifies 

ther of Pylades. This is introduced with properly the top of a heap, as the part ficfi 

ffett judgment, to prepare the audience for taken of any other thing. Here it is the 

tile arriyal of Pylades. hair, or rather the heads of human viaims. 

fTheorig^alwordfignifieshain butas The Tauro-Scythians, as Herodotus re- 

awordfierylikeithasbeen appBedto apil- lates, ufed to facrifice all Grangers who 

lar, it probably means a circolar ornament were ihipwrecked on their coafl, afler which 

«f the altar. they threw their bodies into the Tea, and 



O R E 9^ T E a 
Once more, my Pylades, let U8^ examine whether* anjr one ij 
here.. Oh' Pho&bus, info what new fneres wiH thy fecond craclc 
lead me ? I come recent from a mother's blood, flicd to revenge a 
murdered father j and, in my turn, am abandoned^ to tfte ven- 
geance of the Furies, banifliedifrom my country*, a* wretched wan- 
dering fugitive ! Into what lands have I not carried my misfortunes ? 
Wearied at length with; fuch. accumulated woes, Jprefent myfelf 
before thy altar. I beg to know, when this madnefs, and thefe 
wanderings, will have an^ end. Thou anfv^reiih^ that I muft go 
to Tauris to the temple of Diana^ thy fifter, and by artifice, or 
fome happy chance, take from thence, the^ftatue which fell from 
^heaven, as is faid, and, midfl: innumerable dtrngers, cany i« tb Atti- 
ca, and then I fhall enjoy the quiet which flies me now.* Well, 
my voyage is finiihed, behold me, in obedience to .thy orders 
here, in an unknown country, where they are ignorant of the facred 
laws of hofpitality. But fay, my deareft Pylades, fiYice thou aft 
refolved to fhare my dangers, wliat (hall We do now ? Thou feeft 
the heighth of thefe walls; how (hall weftaJk ttis- tempi* >- *Hi>vr 
(hall we break through its brazen gates ? We are riot accufiooM^ tQ 
exploits like thefe, and if we are di&overed, inevitable death 
awaits us. Let us, then, wifely forego our ra^ de£^|.let'us 
return to our fliips, and fly this curfed land* / 

P Y L A D E S. - 

Why do you talk of returning ? Oreftes and his friend kave- ncva 
yet fhunned necefl!ary danger, and muft n»t now. The oracle of 
Apollo (hall be obeyed. Let us for the prefcnt go farther from* this 
temple, and conceal ourfelves in one of thbfe caverns wafhed by the 
fea. There we will wait for the apprtaoh of Night, and, veiled 
in her friendly fhades, make happier efforts to carry ofF this fbtue. 
You fee thofe columns; there it is that you mufi defcend; every 
thing is eafyta brave mten ; none but cowards fufFiy themfblves to 
be repulfed. 

hung up their heads upon a crofs, or to the * The Abbe Sallier^ by chaoginf one 
roofs of their houfes; and then they con- letter, reads» Ht-wfioN ^ue roaeealnfr/ehfj t 
fidered them as tutelar angels. They treat- See voL v. o/tbi bifi. oftbt Mcadmj •/ tHfarif^ 
cd their prifoners taken in battle in the fame tton^ 
manner. The favages of Canada have 
Ibmething like this barbarous and fuperiti^ 
lipus Guftom^ 




I approve your fcheme, my Pylades. We have not indeed under- 
taken tnis long and painful voyage to return with difappointment 
and dilgrace. Come, let us feek for fome cave to hide us from the 
day ; if the Oracle be not accompliihed, ours will be the fault, and 
not the God's. Let us prepare to execute his will. What enter- 
prize can feem too dangerous for youthful x:ourage to attempt? 


Which ferves for the Interlude. 



Ye natives of the Euxine fea, and the two * ifles which deceive 
the eyes of mariners, liften with attention to my words. Oh 
daughter of Latona, Godde/s of woods and mountains ; thou 
who prefideft over childbirth, great Diana, for thee I have left 
the walls of Greece, my celebrated country; for thee I have aban- 
doned her delightful groves, and my paternal houfe. Behold me 
devoted to thefervice of thy altar, the holy prieftefs of a moft holy 
Goddefs, I bring a heart pure and uncorrupted into thy awful 
courts, and facred temple. 


Oh daughter of that king who led the innumerable armies of 
the Atrides againft Troy ! behold us here obedient to thy orders. 
Say, princefs, what new misfortune doft thou weep ? Whynaft thou 
brought us to the temple ? 


Alas, my dear companions ! in your prefence I may freely indulge 
my grief, and abandon myfelf to groans and lamentations. Thcfe 
funeral fongs fuit my fad fortune. Oh wretched Iphigenia ! the 
miferies of thy unhappy family fall with redoubled force on thee. 
Alas ! I weep the death of my loved brother ! Oh, this night, 
this cruel night ! with what a black prefage has it alarmed me ! 

* Thefe two iflands, called the Cyanees, the name of SjmplegaJes^ and the Latins that 
are two rocks, which at a diftancc feem to of Concurrentia/axa. They are upon theEux- 
join, from whence the Greeks gave them ine fea ; one in Europe, the other in Afia. 

Vol. IL .C I am 

lo fPH I O E N lA IN TAU R I S. 

I am loft, undone; my whole race ha8 perifticd. Oh Fate ! thou 
haft deprived me of a brother, the only remaining branch of my 
family ; he is defcended to the ftiades. It is for him that I pre- 
pare this funeral pomp, and this vafe deftined for the libations. 
This is to pour the mingled ftream of honey, wine, and the blood 
of viftims. Let us appeafe the manes of my brother. Give me 
the golden vafe. . Oh fon of Agamemnon, deareft brother! whq 
art now an inhabitant of the gloomy regions of the dead, accept of 
this libation j come, loved {hade, (rome, and receive thefe gifts. 
Far from thy country, and my own, where I wasfuppofed to have 
been buried, and. transformed into a hind after my fatal facrifice, 
I cannot fpread upon thy toijib my offerjed hair, nor bathe it with 
a fifter's tears. 


Oh princefs ! let ua in our fongs imitate thy funeral accents : 
let us anfwer them in barbarous ftrains, and in thi^ fad ceremony 
employ a plaintive mufe, fuch ajs Pluto infpires, and which never 
knew * the fong of joy. 

1 P H I G E N I A. 

Unfortunate houfe of the Atrides ! Oh race of Agamemnon I 
the ornament and fupport of thy fceptre is vaniihed, for ever va- 
nifhed ! Which of the happy Argives now fills thy throne ? Oh 
heaven, what a fucceflion of miferies in our fatal houfe ! *f- The 
frighted fun ftarts back ; he turns his courfers, he veils his eyes. 
The £atal adventure of the golden fleece preceded this J. Ah, the 
black ftory prefents nothing but horrors upon horrors, murders 
upon murders. The guilty ftiades of our anceftors have fent from 
hell the Fury . which purlues their mifcrable defcendants. Yes^ 
wretched Iphigenia, a malignant genius peifecutes thee. Alas, 
he has never quitted thee from the moment of thy birth. The 
Fates decreed for me a life as miferable as the marriage of Cly- 
temneftra. I was the firft fruits of that unhappy marriage : I be- 
came the objedt of all their cares ; but the daughter of Leda gave 
me birth, only to be a vi<3im facrificed for the Greeks, and facri- 

* Pcan. cd in the Coephores ofE/chylus. Thyeftes 

f Iphigenia (lightly touches upon the robbed his brother Atreus of the golden 

crime committed by Atreus, who made his fleece, upon which the fete of his kingdom 

brother Thyeftes eat his own fon, at which depended. Atreus in revenge murdered his 

the fun ftarted back with horror. fon, and gave him his limbs to eat. 

t This is the adventure which is mention- 



I ?ftl 6 fiN lA 11^ t AU R i 8, IX 

iked by ft fatfaen Ah die barbarians ! they condu<5bed me to 
Aulis, in a chdriot adorned like a bride : a miferable bride ! Tliey- 
deftined me for the fon of a Goddefs^ and I was delivered up to death. 
I am now an inhabitjuit of this favage land. Detefted dwelling ! 
here I remain, without a hulband, children, country, or friends. 
I am no longer employed in finging the praifes of Juno, the God- 
defs of Argos j nor in tracing on the glowing carj>ets with Miner- 
va's art, the figures of the Titans, vanquifhed by her. Far differ- 
ent now my fad employifteht -, the prieftefs of Diana, I fprinkle 
her altar and the cruel Ate * with the blood of miferable wretches. 
Their tears, their cries, their groans, cannot fave them from the 
fate that waits them. Yet oh^ as if ihefe bloody fpedtacles were 
not fufficient to make me wrfetched, I have a brother's death to 
mourn ; a brother whom I left in a tender age, like a fair open- 
ing flower, in the arms and bofom of his mother 1 a brother, bom 
to fway the fceptre of Argos, and to enjoy a happier deftiny. 



The CHORUS td 1 P H 1 G E N I A. 

See that fliepherd, princefs, who advances haftily from the fea- 
fide I doubtlefs he briAgs you newH. 

Ah princefs ! ah daughter of Agamemnon ! prepare your heart 
for the ftrange things 1 have to tell you. 

I P H 1 G E N I A, 

Alas ! what arc thy fatal tidings ? 


Two young men have privately left their fhip, and landed on 
the Ihorc of the Cyanees- They will be welcome viffims to the 

■i II I .1111 . ■ ■ r 

* A malignant Goddefs, who troubled przytn, who^ as well is tins Coddeii, 

the minds of riiortals, fo that fhey might y^ete the daughter^ rf Jtipiter, prevented ctr 

precipitate theitifelt«$ into mftfortuHes. fiifpetidedtlieeffMbofheriiifliet. 
The poets ftign^ that fhe £/^, or 

C 2 God- 

12 I P H I G E N I A I N T A U R I S. 

Goddcfs. It is your part to give orders for the badies, the initia*^ 
tions, and all the preparations for the facriiice. 

I P H I G E N I A. 

Where do thefe ftrangers come from ? What is their country ? 


They are Greeks. This is all I know. 

I P H I G E N I A. 

Haft thou not heard their names ? 


One of them is called the other Pylades. 


And what is the name of the other I 


I know not ; none of us heard him named. 


How were they perceived and taken by the fhepherds ? 

S H E PH E R D. 

We took them on the Ihore, near a cave of this inacceffible fea* 


What induced the {hepherds to go thither ? 

We went to wafh our flocks,. 


Again I afk you, fhepherd, how were thefe ftrangers taken f 
This is what I would know. Alasl it is long fince any Greeks 
have landed on this fatal coaftj their blood has ceafed to ftream. 
upon this altar. [jifide.] 


My companions and I led our flocks to that part of the fea which 
ieparates the Cyan&s ; a fteep rock is there, which, by the conti- 
nual daihing of the waves, is broke in feveral pieces : and fervcs 
for a retreat to thofe who fifli for the precious fhells which pro- 
duce the purple dye. In a hollow of this rock, one of our compa- 
nions perceived two young men. Seized with aftoniftiment and 
awe> he cautiouily withdrew, and joining us again^ Look friends^^. 



feid he, through the clifts of the rock, there two Divinities have 
retired. Anotiber fhepherd, more religious, raifed his hands and 
eyes to thefe fuppofed Divinities, and refpedlfully adoring them» 
Divine Palemon *, cried he, fon of Leucothoe, protestor of 
frail veflels, be favourable to us : then addrefling himiclf to 
both. Whether you are the twin fons of Leda -f, faid he, or 
whether Nereus :f, the father of fifty Goddeflcs, has given you 
birth, oh, hear us Gods! Here he was interrupted by another 
fhepherd, whole impiety had made him fierce and vain : he laugh- 
ed in fcom, and confidently afferted, that thefe two youths were 
flrangersT, whom the fear of our cuftoms had obliged to conceal 
thenifelves in this cave. I confefs, princefs, that moft of- us 
thought he was in the right, and we agreed to feize upon thefe 
vidtims deftined to Diana. Mean time, one of the two Greeks 
came out of the cave, and afeended the top of the rock. There 
he ftopped. His head turned fwiftly from fide to fide ; . his hands 
trembled, his looks were wild, and he appeared to us to be poflef- 
fed with a kind of frenzy. He hollowed like a huntfinan, Py lades 
feeft thou this ? Look there. Look upon that other : it is an in- 
fernal Fury. Seeft thou how armed with ferpents, fhe flies to- 
wards me : fhe feeks my life. What other Eumenide is this ? All 
her form, even her garments, breathe flames and blood. She cuts 
the air with her enormous wings. Oh Heaven 1 She holds my 
mother in her arms:. She comes to fink me. She purfues me. 
Whither, oh, whither fliall I fly ? While thus he raved, you might 
have feen his colour and his geftures change every moment. Some- ' 
times he bellowed like a bull : fometimes his cries refembled the 
barking of a dog \\. He imitated at length all thofe dreadful 
•founds which are attributed to the Eumenides*^ Terror and 
amazement feized us ; and as if we expeded inftant death, we bent 
our trembling bodies to the ground, and kept an aweful filence. 
Immediately the madman drew his fword, and ruihed like a lyon 
amidft our flocks. He pierced their bowels, and dealt about his 
blows with a remorfelefs hand, fuppofing he ihould thus appeafe 
the Furies. The fea was tinged with blood. The fhepherds, re- 
covered from their terror ; and, feeing this havock among their 
flocks, took arm^ ; but apprehenfive that they (hould not be able 

* Or Melicerte, a fea-god.. || The Furies, who reprcfcntcd remorfc,. 

f Caftor and Pollux. were alfo called dogs. 

I Nereus the fon of Thetis, and the fi*. 
Iher of fifty. Neriads* 


to reM the valour of thefc yonng ftf angers, they hltvr their homi 
to fummon the inhabitants to their affiftancc. In a moment vaft 
multitudes aifembled. Mean tinie^ the ftranger fcemcd ready to 
faint ; the excefs of his fury abated, his lips were covered with 
foam, and he funk upon the ground : his fall gave us new courage, 
each was now eager to fignalize his valour> each aimed a ftroke at 
him, the ftones fell thick about him; but the other ftranger, with- 
out being difmayed, wiped off the foam which iffucd from the 
lips of his friend ; he covered him with his garments, obfervcd, 
and warded off the blows, to guard him who was the only obje<9: 
of his tender cares. The youth recovered, he fofe, and, at the 
fight of fuch a crowd of enemies, he ientfcMth hideous bdlo wings t 
we continued to charge them on every fide, without giviftg them 
theleaft refpite. Then it was that we heard a terrible voice utter 
thefe words : My deareft Pylades, let us die ; but that we may 
fall like heroes, take thy fword, and follow me. As foon as we 
beheld the dreadful fteel, glittering in the hands of the two war- 
riors, the forefts were filled with the flying (hepherds j but while 
fonje fled before the conquerors, others followed them, and rained 
a fhower of ftones upon them. When they gave back> they fpared 
them 5 but what appears fcarce credible, although fo many armed 
men united their efforts tQ feize thefe unhappy vi^ms, yet with the 
utmoft difficulty we AKx:eeded, and lefs by force than artifice. We 
furfounded them at length, and forced them to drop their fwords*. 
Their ftrength being quite exhaufted,* their knees funk under 
them. Th^ fell ; we feized them, and kd them to the king. 
He looked upon them, and fent thdm to iniftant death. Oh prin*- 
cefs ! thou oughteft to wilh that fortune may fend thee many fuch 
vidlims. Soon would their blood revenge thee on the cruelty of the 
Greeks, and their inhuman facrifice at Aulis. 


What wonders haft thou related. Shepherd, of this unknown 
Grecian ! Unhappy was it for him that he landed on thefe ftiores^ 
fo fatal to all ftrangers ! 


Shepherd, it is enough ; conduft the prifoners hither; I wiH 
fake care of all the reft. 

• In the Greek, By thrwmngft9nes upon tbm* 


I PHIO E N lA IN TAUR 1 Si tg 



I P H I G E N I A. 

Andnow^whatfayftthou, unhappy Iphigenia? Formerly thou didft 
lanficnt thq unhappy •Greeks who fell into thy hands, thy tears 
flowed for their fate, and now thou art calm, unmoved ! Oh mi- 
ferable viftims ! whoever you are, charge my infenfibility to that 
cruel dream, which, to my tortured fancy, painted Oreftes dead. 
Yet you will find me cruel. For oh ! my dear companions, my 
heart is fteeled, the happinefs of others wounds the afflifted ; and 
we wifh they flioulc^ be wretched, only becaufe we are fo. Oh 
Jupiter, thou who art mafter of the winds, fend Menelaus and 
Helen to thefe fatal (hores ! Oh give to my vengeance thefc au- 
thors of my mifery. Here fhall theyj&nd another Aulis, All, the 
inhuman wretches, they ilaughtered me like a fearful heifer; I was 
the viftim, a father was the priefL Can I forget thefe horrors ? Alas f 
they will dwell for ever in my memory. * How often did I lay 
my trembling hands upon my father's aweful face ? How often did 
I cling to his knees, which I held in my embraces ? Oh, my fa* 
ther, did I fay, to what a horrid marriage have you doomed me ! 
a poor deceived, unhappy mother triumphs. The miftaken Ar- 
gives exprefs their joy in fongs j they invoke the God of marriage i 
the palace refounds with the fprightly flute ; mean time I periih by 
your hands, my father. This boafted Achilles was Pluto then, 
and not the fon of Peleus ; to Pluto I was promifed. Ah the cruel 
artifice ! To bring me on a triumphant chariot to this bloody mar- 
riage. Fruitlefs in treaties, I muft pbey. In vain did I through 
my veil caft fearful glances on him. I took this brother whom I 
now lament; (ah fad remembrance ! he is no more) I took him in 
my arms, the wife of Achilles, the fifter of Oreftes, carried mo- 
defty fo far, as to repel the tender endearments of an infant 
who was her brother. 1 delayed thefe foft embraces till my return. 
Ah vain, vain hope ! My dear Oreftes, if it be true, that thou 
art really dead, oh fpeak, tell me who murdered thee -f ? Was it 

♦ A manner of fupplicating mentioned in which it appears to me to have neither con- 

the holy fcriptures. n?^ion nor fenfc ; the commentators have 

t I tranflate this pafTage thus, by placing faid nothing concerning it, which makes it 

a point of interrogation in the text, without no lefs per^exing. 

a fa- 



a father's cruelty? Did he facrificethcc like me to Diana? Shocking 
contradiction! This goddcfe banifhes from her altars the profane, 
whofe impure hands are polluted with murder, Whv fav I 
murder ? She indurcs not tnofe who have only touchea a dead 
body, or received an infant newly born : and fliall I believe that 
£be beholds with pleafure her altar ftreaming with the blood of hu- 
man viaims ? Ah no ! not from the bofom of Latona * didft thou 
imbibe this cruelty. It is not credible that the horrid feaft of 
Tantalus ^f- could pleafe the Gods, J The favage inhabitants of 
this land, becaufe they delight in carnage, have attributed to the 
Divinity their own barbarous inclinations. The Gods are merciful 
and juft ; never can I perfuade myfelf that they will authorize a 



Srophe l Tell me, ye Cyanees, ye rocks which join the feas that former- 
ly the frantic || lo croffed, whenfhe paffed fr6m Europe into Afia; 
teH me who thefe ftrangers are, who, like her, have dared to tra- 
verfe the Euxine fea ? Why have they left the Eurotas crown- 
ed widi rulhes, aud the facred banks of Dirce, to vifit this inhof - 
pitable fliore, where a prieftefs dies the altar and pillars of the 
temple with human blood ? 
Antistro- Was it the defire of riches that conftrained you to dare the fury 
FHB I. of the waves in a frail veflel. Riches have their charms, their fatal 

charms for mortals. Oh avarice, infatiate paflion ! thou forceft men 
to wander from fea to fea, from city to city, to load their fhoulders 

• In the Greek it is, tbt wfe of Jupiter. 

t Tantalus king of Phiygia often had the 
Gods for his guefts. One day, for want of 
other provifion, he killed his (bn, and ferved 
him up to them in a feaft. Ceres eat a 
Ihoulder of the child, the Gods reftored him 
to life, and fupplied the ftioulder that had 
been eaterr with an ivory one ; therefore 
Virgil, in his Gcorg. B. iii. v. 7. calls him 
Humiroqui Peltfs in/ignis e^urtw, Tantalus 
retired into Peloponnefus, after ftealing away 
Ganymede, the fon of a king of Troy. 

X There is a paflage which ihews that the 
wifcr fet of Pagans diftinguifhed their theo- 
logy from the feble which deified the crimes 
and the pailions of men. 

II lo, the daughter of Inachus, was be- 
loved b/ Jupiter, who, to preferve her from 
the rage of Juno, transformed her into a 
heifer; but the Goddefs ft ruck her rival 
with madnefs ; fo that after having wander- 
ed a long rime, Ae at length went into 



^th a ttfdcfs weight* Eutrav^nm in ibme^ this pailion becomes 
madnefs, in others moderate^ they call it prudence^ 

How have thefe two ftrangers been able to pafs between thofe Smof «« ri. 
iflandst which ibem to join ? How hzrc they cfcaped the rocks of 
Fhinttts \ which watch inceflantly for the wreck <^f mariners i 
Br what good fortniie hare they traveried the vaft plains of Am<^ 
phitrite^ where the choir of Nereids animate with fongs the winds 
which iiy around their veffels, and fwell the fails ? Zephyros and 
the fbuthem breeze have favoured tkteir conrfe to the-f-illand famous 
for the exerciies of AchiUes% 

Oh* that by fome happy chance ^ Helen may leave Troy, and Aittistro- 
land ttpott theie ihores, tnat I|4)igenta*s wifhes may be granted ! ^™ ^^ 
Gh, that Leda's da«s;ktei^ V(4th hair diihevelled and bleeding 
bofom^ may expire under the hands ^f «iir pnncefs^ and by 4ier 
death attone for all the miferies ihe has ca«iied hen What wdk 
come news would this be to the Greeks^ if haply any of them 
flkoidd come to free us from o«r bondage I What joy» what tran« 
^xxt i to find ourielves as in a ^ cfa^eam^in the dear bofbmof our 
€Ountiy> and to partake thole fbngs of gladneis and of triumph. 

A C T the T H I R D. 
S CBN E die Pi R S T. 

IPHIGENIA, ilie CHORUS, the two Greeks in chains^ 

I PHI G E N lA, 

; loaded with chains* Bafilent^ 
tindeedthetwoGrceksdeftined for 

TDEftOLD they bring the viaimsl 
** mydearcompanion8«Theyareind 

• Phineus^ the unde and the lover of waniort» who fell at the (lege of Troy, re^ 

Andromeda. He left to Perftot die oure of tired thitfier. 

delivering her. from the iea-monfter, and C The Grvoiaii women* who compofed 

4ifterwards atteiqpted to cany lier away» fhe<^honis, wei« ign<H-ant» as well as IphU 

Perfeus changed him into a rock. genia, that Helen was returned to Sparta. 

■f The origtoal adds, fndtfii m IMf. || Barnes e3q)Iains ttik pafTage two <&& 

Achilles exerdfed himfdf in running in this ferent ways. 4fiy ctaimt vm^ m m I^ig^ 

•iflandyCalledfeMn thenoeAchiUea,orLe»ca» m£tinmm^fitmt9htr€iwrmtiiM9wr9'vmemm'^ 

w the race of Achilles» oyer againft the tvyfOi^Why ctmnjiiewkt^tUhuinadnam^ 

Cherfonnefiu Taurica. It was fliU caDed ietrmlj^tfdint$ om-cwa co tm trj . The fenfe 

the lile of die Heroes } becattfe«t was fup- I have cho&n appears to me to be the toA, 

t9&d that the iniuies of tbofir ^bratcd naturaL 

VoL.IL D the 


the facrifice. They are leading them to the temple; the (hepher^ 
hajs not deceived us. 


Oh princefs, fince to thee- this favage people have confided the 
care of initiating the viiftim^, receive thdfe vtrhich are now brought 
to thee, Neceffity requires thee to fubmit to a cuftom,,which, how- 
ever impious and execrable it appears to. the Greeks^ is nevertheleis 
venerated here. 


Well,, let us then begin our office ; my firft cares are due to^ 
the lacred rites of Diana, Unbind thefe ftrangers*. They are con- 
fecrated to the Goddefs. It is no longer lawful to keep them in 
chains, -f- Go to the temple, and fee that the accuftomed prepa-*- 
rations are made {fo her women). But you unhappy ftrangers, tell 
me, who are your wretched parents ? Ah, how miferable your 
fifter, if yoH have one ! What brothers will (he lofe I Alas f you 
are ignorant of the fate to which you are doomed; for who knows 
the will of Heaven ? Our deftiay is concealed from us. It is a 
myftery we cannot penetrate. 5ay, then> ftrangers, from whence 
do you come ? What feas have you traverfed to reach this coaft ? 
Far from your native country, alas, long, long will your abfencebe !-. 
you have left ijj^ never mpre ttx return.. 

O R E S T E S. 

Why doft thou take (b much in tereft in our misfortunes ? Oh, woman i* 
whoever thou att, why doft thou lament our fate ? Mean'ft thou* 
to foftenus to unworthy fears? Can the dread of a near and inevitablei 
death befubdued by fruitlefs tears ? Why ftiould'ft thou weep the des- 
tiny of thofe whom it is notinrthypowertofavei This is toincreafe. 
their mifery; fince we muft cue, fuffer our fortune to take its, 
courfe. Ceafe to pity us. We know the cuftoms- of this C(»xntry^» 
and the doom that waits us here;, 


Which of you is named Pylades ? This is what I would firft^ 


• The criminals were unbound when their what follows, that the Chorus were witnef^ - 

Sentence was pronounced, that; they might fes to part; at leaft, of Iphigenia's converia- 

liave the melaocholy fatis&dtioQ of dyi'ig tion with the two (Greeks. It is natural to- 

free*. imagine, tha^fonle'ofthefe women went to ' 

f Here there ftems to be a (fifpculty : for execute the orders of the prieftefs, while the 

if Iphigenia commands her women to go to reft continued upon the ftage; or that Iphi- 

the templci the Chorus would not be pre* gema gave her commands to the other fer-- 

fcat durkig this fbenr; aodjretit appearsiby yaats of the temple. 


I3PH1 GEN lA IN TAURI5?. r^ 

This is Pylades, (pointing to bis friend). But why doft thou aflt ? 

I P H I G E .N I a! 

Ia which of the Grecian cities was he borft ? 


Lady, again I beg thee tell me why this curiofity ? Of what ufc 
is it to thee to know ? 


Did the fame mother give you hirth ? 

By fiiendfhip, notbloodt are we brothers* 

I P H I G E N I A, [to Oreftes\ 
But whatis thy name ? 


I am miierabie : this is the name which fuits me beft. 


It is an ef&d of thy ill fate : but this is not what I aik. 


Suffer us^ Lady, to die unknown, and we (hall die lefs wretched. 


Oh generous ftranger ! from whom haft thouimbibed thefe noble 
icntiments ? 


* Thou may'ft take my life; I yield it. But leave me the fecret 
of my name : it is of no confcquence to thee to know it. 


Thou wil't not, fure, refuie to tell me the name at Icaft of the 
city where thou wer't bom. 

O R E S T E S. 

Of what ufe will it be to name the place of my birth, when my 
laft moment is near ? 

* .In the text : Tou are tofiurifice nvfto^^ body and name, which cannot be exprefTed' 
4ind not wKf watu. In the Greek there is a in another language^ 

relation between the words, which iignify 




Wlat liinders thee from granting, me dm favour I 

WeO, huiY*. fince thou. wilt know, the iungdom of Aigos isnnr 
♦ countiy? 

Oh Gods ! Doft thou fpeak truly ? 

O R E S T B 5. 
Tev and Mycene gave moMrth. Oh aPf once to iattaaatet 


Why did'f^ thou leave thy coontty i Wer't dkou. baaiAed I 


My baniihment was pardy voluntaiy, and pac% fixcccL 

Strangeiv. proceed wd iafonn.iBe of all tbat 1 woaU-kDovt^ 

© R E S T E S. 
I will o^'tfaee> lad^, m few wopdf|. aadm fiub a manner ar 
hefits my fortune. 

Thou littie ilDa^m'ft, that thy arrival from Argos here is of the 
ntmoil confequencft to me.. 


Thou may'ft rgoice in it: But do not-fequire the Gone ientimentfr. 


Thou hait douhtlef» heaicd of Trpy» diaC city fb' celebrated^ 
tbiou^out the worlct 

OR E S T ES.. 

Would tathe Gods thallhad never I' That it was kfir 
diao a dream to me ! 

*.Oi»tt«fciathi>.wtfe.%«» that Aryat i» aMa>^oC-tfa». «yh«l- «n d th« king i toiii aC^ 
Iks couotiy. and a mooKBt afterwards Agamemnon ; as for Mycene* it. was tb«re 
Mycene. Yet there is no contradiction in tl^at Jicvas boro. 
tlHs> becauie. that Aigpa. was at once the. 

I P xl 1^ 


I P H I G E N I A. 
If report ii» to be btUeved, that fyperb city 16 overthrown by the 
Grecian arms. 

Report ha& not deceived thee. Lady. 

lis Hdeii retnmed with Menelaus f 

Ahhom htai has her tttxum been to jfboM who* belong to me ^f 

I P H I G E N I A Mjde. 
She has beefr ^ caufe nS my tfufi£6r*aaos too. Where is that 
princefs then ^ . , . 

At *Spartsa with her hnfband. 


Oh HdenT Oh execrable dame tflkdl 0)xece-"{^de) and me* 

Toiati ixtitidt htf sane iffexecrable. Too many nufetie» has 
her fatal marriage brought i^n me. 


Is it true», then^ that the Gceeks are returned! from Troy, as 
£une has publifhed } 

I befiec&tiMe tdl ose why all tfi«fe qotAioiu ? This ioparticu^ 
lir inquiry ? 

1 have my reaibo^for procuring dli$ Information, from thee be- 
fore thy- death. 

Continue,, then, M qadUoffcrne fince,.tlM)tt tlik«ft |Seafttr&i» it. I 
am ready to fatisfy thee. 

LFiri G EITIA.. 
Is the prophet Calchas returned from Troy? 

I III I !■! II -- "- - -r — I' I ' - ' - 

• Oreftes (peaks here obfcurely of him- Nieither does IpTirgenia cfiE:over WJwrlwis* 
ftlf ; he dtres not make himfelf known <m This cDnccalmcnt renders the tn^dy ex— 
acceimt of ^ parrieide he had conunitted. tremel^ iaterefting^ 

6 oreste:sl 

2t , t PH rO E N I A IN TAU R IS, 

The report of hi« death is fpread among the Afgivis. 

I PH I G E N lA. 

Oh equitable Goddefe ! And the fon of Laertes ♦, lives he ftill? 


He lives : at leaft it is believed fo, but he is not yet returned 
to Ithaca. 

I P«I<J E'l^TA. 
Oh may he perifh, and ne^r more behold his native country 1 

His fate is miferable enough r lyifli him nojworfc. • 

I P H I G E N I A. 

But does the fon of Thetis, does Achilles live ? 


Achilles is dead. , In vain did they make preparations in Aulis for 
his nuptials.' 

I P H I G E N I A. 
Ah, that was a ftratagcm dnlyT They may well think fo who fiif- 
fered by it. 

X>R E S^T E S.' 

B>« what ain I to t|iiak,, lady, of f)p^t{pii who feems fo kfiowipg 
in the affairs of Greece ? 

Know then, I am a Gfccian--i— I ^ae carried away from my 
country at an early age. ^ ^ . • ' 

, ; . . :b'R E S T*E S. 
Pardon me, I am now no longer furprifed at thy curipfity. 


What is become of that fortunate general P that— - 

Whom doft thou mean, Jady i For, alas !' the general, I know 
cannot be called fortunate. 




I mean Agamemnon>. the fon (a& it is £iid) of Atreus. 

O R E S T E Si 

I know nothing of him:. In the name of the Gods, I conjure 
thee, afk me no queftions concerning him. 


Ah, by thofe Gods, I beg thee fpeak and calm my griefs f 


Unhappy prince ! he if no rnore^ and others have followed him* 


He is dead then ! Oh my heart ! — but lay, h6w died he ? 

O R E g,T E S. 
"What means that figh which elcaped thee, lady ? What interefV 
haft thou in the fate of this priAce? 

r P H I G E N I A. 

I think of his former fortune, and lament him. 

OTl-Eit E S. 
His. fate was indeed deplorable ; he died by the cruel hands of 
Ms wife. • ' •' • i •- 

I P H I Q E N lA. 
Oh barbarous woman 1 Oh mpil unhappy prince ! 

OK E S T R & 
Enquire no &rther. J have told thee all. 


One word more, and'Iantfatisfied. Is the wife of that prince 

O RE S T E S. 

She is dead. Heir fbn, her own fon, murdered her. 

IPHIGENIA, {afide). 
Oh Heaven ! what confufiba in the family of Atreus ! Did this 
ibn-.kill. her voluntarily. ? 

He. ^d. ^ He revenged his father by her death. 


24 I P H I 1 N I A I N T AU R I «. 

Gods ! wh9t • prime ! but oht what juitice too ! 

O R £ 8 T E 6. 

Inooccnt u be fo^ the Gods are his enetniea. 

I P H 1 G E N I A. 

Remains there at MyccAC any ether branch of this unhappy 
family ? 

O R 5 S T B S, 
Only Eleara, 

I P H I Q E N I A. 
What« thea» do the^ know nothkig concerning her fifter^ who 
was facr^ced at Aulis r 

Nothing, but that fhe is dead« 

I PH I G E N lA. 

I pity hor i I pt^ her father too^ who became her murderer. 


Severely was he puniihed fiar it The mother revenged on him 
her daughter's deadi. 


Is the Ion of the nuudered king iA ArgosI 


He Ii\^e6, but where I know not« A wretched fugitive, he is in, 
all places, and in none. 

I PH I G E N IA, {afiJe). 

He livQS ! It is enough. Away ye drfams that have deceived 
me. Ye are illuiions all. And you, ye Genii, your boafted 
knowledge i^ as vain. Ah, it is too true, th^tt error is me portion of 
the Gods, a$ well as of weak mortals. To prove the& fkithleis 
oracles true, the ion of Agamenmon muft be deicended to the 


Alas ! Who will bring us likewife news of our relations, and 
inform us whether they are ftill among the living ? 



I P H I G E N I A. 

Strangers, the difcourfe we have had together may poffibly 
l)e advantageous to you. If thou [to Orijies] approve of what I am 
going to propofe, I hope the event will be favourable to us both. 
It is to mee that I addrefs myfelf. 1 give thee life, provided 
that, in return for this benefit, thou wilt go back to Argos, and 
bear to the few friends I have ftill left in that country a letter, 
which a captive, tnoved to compaflion by my unhappy fate, has 
written in my name. A vidim to the rigid laws of Diana, he 
knew not that my murdering hand would, in reward for this fer- 
vice, give him death. Alas ! till now I have not met witli any 
Greek who could return to Argos, and deliver this letter to the 
perfon in the world that is moft dear to me. . As for thee, young 
llranger,who feem'ft to enter into my interefts,whoknow'ft Mycene, 
and thofe I love there, depart, and execute this commiffion. In 
reward for this fervice, I will fave thy life : but thy friend here 
[pointing to Pylades]y fince our laws require it, muft die for both. 

No, lady, no ; he muft not die. All but this I confent to. 
Alas, can I bear to fee him perifh! It is 1 that have embarked him 
on this fea of miferies. Impelled by a too ardent friendlhip, he has 
followed a blind pilot. Is it juft, that to ferve thee, I fhould give 
him up to death, and preferve my life at fuch a price ^ No ; make 
him thy meflenger to Argos, and confign me over to thofe who 
are to (hed my blood. Ah, what bafenefs would be mine, could 
I refolve to procure my fafety with the lofs of a friend, who aflbci- 
ated himielf in my calamities ! He has done this, and his life i^ 
dearer to me than my, own. 

I P H I G E N I A. 

Oh virtue, oh gcnerofity unequalled ! How illuftrious muft be 
that fource from whence diou haft drawn thefe noble fentiments ! 
Would to the Gods, that the only furviving branch of my family 
may refemble thee. For know, I have a brother, and am wretched 
only in my abfence from him. Let thy friend return, then; fince 
thou wilt have itfo, I confent to it; take thy heroic wilh, and 


By whom am I to be facrificcd ? Who is to perform the barba- 
rous office ? 



I P H I G E N I A. 

I, who am Diana's pdeftefs ; it is my office* 


Ah, lady, what a horribfc employment ; and how unworthy of 
one like thee ! 

Fatal neceflity ! Itmuftbefou 

How ! a woman.plungc a poniard into the breafts of meat 

I P H P G E N I A^ 

No: my ofHce is to pour die luftral water upon tihe heads of the 
unhappy viiftims. 

But may lafk, who is the facriiiper ? 

I PH I G E N lA. 

Thofe to whom this iadtaik belong^ace in the temple^ 

O R E S^T E S. 

♦ What tomb am I to have ? 

I PH r G E N lA. 

The facred fire^ and a cave for thy afhes. 


Oh that thelail fad duties might be paid me by my. fiiler T 


Fruitlefs wifhes ! Oh ftranger, whomfoever. thou art, thy filler 
is far, far from thefe barbarous fhores ; but fince thou art a Grecian, 
myfelf will perform the duty of a fitter to thee. My hands 
with pious care fhall adorn thy tomb. I will throw funeral 
cakes upon thy pile, and pour into it libations of honey. For 
oh, afllire thyfelf, I am not an enemy to thee. My letter 

* Nothing feemed of more confequence tes on this occafion, oflpiers to pay himherfelf 

to the ancients than funeral rites. It is the laft duties, and to hold the place of a 

not necelTary to prove this by quoting a great fifter to him. It is this circumftance which 

number of palTages. A man was deemed un<- enhanced the pleafure of the audience* who^ 

fortunate, if he did not expire in the arms knew that Iphigenia was really the fifler of 

of his relations, and if 'he died out of his thedeftinedvi^m. 
o^n country. Iphigenia, to confoleOret 

1 is. 


is la the temple. Goiards, unbind the captives, and leave them. 
[./^e] Now then, at la/l, I can write to my loved brother ! This 
unhoped for aieflj^e will inform him, at lead, thattflill live, and 
£11 him with the fofteA joy. 



CHORUS, to Oreftes m they go out. 
Ah how we pity thee, generous ftranger, thou, who ai;t deAined 
to fee the bloody drops of luilrations iprinkled upon thee ! 


No, no; I am not to be pitied. Receive my thanks, and my 

CHORUS, toPyJaJes. 
As fordiou, who art to return into thy country, we congratu- 
late thy good ^rtune. 

Oh mi&rable fortune, to'lofe what I hold moil dear ! 

CHORUS, going (gibe Stage. 
Inhuman facriiices, how fatal are you to flrangers ! Which of 
the two muil die, their friendihip, we fee, makes mil doubtful. 


Which fefoes for the Interlude. 


Tell me, my deaj^il Pylades, is thy heart agitated with emotions 
like thofe I feel ? 

Eiiplain thyiblf, prince. 


Who can this prieftefs of Diana be"? With what eager curiofity 
ftie inquired concerning the misfortunes of Troy, the return of the 
Creeks, the deaths of Calchas and Achilles. Did'ft thou obfcfve how 

E a ' (he 

28 I P H I G E N I A I N T A U R I S. 

fhe lamented Agamemnon ; how anxioufly {he enquired after the dc* 
ftiny of his wife and children? Depend upon it, Argos rs her coun- 
try. What other motive could engage her to fend a letter there, 
or to intereft herfelf thus in the affairs of Argos, as if they were 
her own ? .^ 

P Y L A D E S. 
My fentiments agree with thine. Yet the eyes of all are fixed 
upon the fate of princes, and no one is ignorant of their misfor- 
tunes. But, prince *, there was fomething elfe which fhe faid-— 

Say, what was it ? Let us mutually explain our thoughts. 

P Y L A D E S. 

Ah, my Orefles ! wert thou to perifh, I fhould be afhamed to fee 
the light. With thee have I traverfed the fea^^ with thee I am re*- 
folved to die. How could I (hewmyfelf in Argos -f-, or in Phocis J? 
(Thou knowefl mankind) ; they would reproach me for returning 
without thee. They would fay, I had betrayed thee, that I had depriv- 
ed thee of life, and took advantage of the calamities of thy fa « 
mily, to feize thy crown> and reign over thy kingcioms. in 
right of thy fifter, wha is my wife. Oh Gods ! what ignominy, 
. what difgrace !" No, my Oreues, no; I cannot, I will not furvive 
thee. Expiring on the altar with my friend, my afhes /hall be 
mixed with thine, Friendfhip, honour, all require this of me. 


Bemorejuft, my deareflPylades ; leave me to fufFer alone a punifh- 
ment which is only due to me. 1 have fortitude enough to enable 
me to die once : but oh, I feel I am too weak to endure a double, 
death. Plead not thofe reproaches which thou apprehendeft. With 
much more juftice would they fall on Orefles, if I could be fo bafe 
as to facrifice a friend that has facrificedall forme. Refled:, my 
deareft* Pylades, that to me, thus perfecutedby theGods, death is 

* He means, as we (hall fee prefently, Pylades being determined to die, con- 

the fentence of death, which Iphigenia had jured his beloved Oreftes to return; Orefles 

pronounced againfl Orelles, who follicited refufed to comply, and obftinately difputed 

it. Here begins that admirable conteft of with him that .death from which he would 

friendfhip which Ovid mentions in the third deliver him, by his own. This was the only 

ale Ponto. oppofition that ever was between them j in 

*« Ire jubet Pylades chanim morituros Oreftem ; all things el/e they agreed. 

«* Hie negat j inque viccm pugnat uterque mori. ^ The Country of OrefteS. 

" Extitithoc unum quod non convenerit illis: . rpi,^ ^^.. „«..,„ ^( 'O^Ar.A^,, 

» Cicura pan eoiKon tc fine Jite t The country of Pylades. 

a blemng*. 


jr bleffing. It is for thee to live, thou whofe family is innocent and 
flourifhing, while mine is guilty and unfortunate. Live, then, 
with*Eled:ra,my fiiler: from me thou received'fther; my pamefhall 
revive in thy children, and my race will not be entirely extindl. 
Adieu, my dear Pylades; long may 'ft thou enjoy that life and that 
crown which I bequeath thee. The only favour which dying I 
implore is, that thou wilt at thy return erecft a tomb for me, which 
may perpetuate my memory. Let my fifter bathe it with her tears, 
and ftrew her hair upon it Tell her, that I died by the hand. of 
a prieftefs upon Diana's alt^-, I reconnnend my fifter to thee; be 
faithful to my alliance, and to my family, of which thou wilt be 
the only fupport, and never. abandon Eleftra. Adieu, thou dear- 
eft, thou beft and faithfulleft of friends, -f- Thou who from thy 
infancy wert bred up with me,thepartnerof all my innocent J amufe- 
ments, what labours, what afflidtions, haft thou not endured in; 
tendernefs to me ! Apollo has deceived us. Perplexed by his 
vain predictions, we have wandered far from our native country. 
It is by his cruel artifice that we are now here. I refigned myfelf 
entirely to his condudl, thou knoweft it : his barbarous oracles made 

me a parricide. The Godspunifh rae for that crime, and now I 

alfo die. 

F Y L A D E S II, offer a fhortpaufe, 

Well, Oreftes, thou muft be obeyed. I will take care that thou 
ftialt have a tomb, I will never abandon Ele<5lra. Oreftes, when 
dead, fliall have a more ardent friend in Pylades than while he 
lived. But why do I talk of thy death, prince ? We are not yet 
reduced to this fad extremity. I fee myfelf indeed upon the point 
of becoming the moft wretched of men by thy lofs. Yet the 
Oracle foretold not this. Believe, me, dear Oreftes, calamities, 
when they have reached their utmoft heigh th, often bring forth, 
amazing revolutions. 


Banifti thofe hopes : the oracles of Apollo have deceived me. 
Behold the prieftefs comes out of the temple, to facrifice her vidim. 

•Pylades had married Eleftra, as has j| jPylades preten*|"to comply, for fear 

been feen in the Eleftra of Sophocles. of grieving his friend ; neverthelefs his refo- 

+ Eledtra fent Oreftes, when he was lution continues unchanged ; he depends 

twelve years of age, to Strophius king of upon fome happy turn, which will free them. 

Phocis. He was bred up with Pylades. both from this perplexity, 

t In the Greek it is. The pUa/ures of the 





the CHORUS. 


E T I R E my dear companions : Go into the temple, and 
make preparations for the facrifice. 




Stranger, here is the letter which I would fend to Argos; 
but ftili my fears perplex me. In calamity we are humble; but, 
no fooner are we freed from it, than we forget the wholfome lef- 
fons it has taught us. How fliall I be afTured that hfe, to whom 
I confide this letter, will not negleft to perform his promife,,when 
he beholds himfelf at a diftaoce from this dangerous (hore ? 


What ftrange fu/picions are thefe, lady ! But fay, what fecurity 
doft thou require for the performance of thy meilage .? 


Swear to deliver this letter to the perfon I fhall name. 


Wilt thou alfo bind thyfelf by an oath. 


To do what ? 


To preferve the life of Pylades, and fend him hence. 

How, unlefs I do this, can he deliver my letter ? 


But will the tyrant grant him this favjour ? 



I PH I G E N lA. 

I will obtain it. I will myfelf difmifs thy friend, 

It is fufficient. {To Pylades], And now, rtiy friend, ^ear firfV* 
and let die moll (acred oath be the pledge of thy faith, 

P y L A D E S, wiiia perplexed air. 

I willdeliver' 

r PH I G E N lA. 
Say, that thou wilt deliver this letter to my friends. 

Lady, I will deliver it. 

Andl will difinifs thee fafe from the Cyan^es iftandsw 


Which of the Gods do'ft thou atteflr, lady ? 

£)iiana> whofb prieAeis I am. 

P Y L A D E S. 

And I take Jupiter, the mafter of the Gods, to witiiefs, that I 
will perform my promise. 

Andifthoudeceiv'ftme- - - 

P Y L A D E S. 
May I never return to my native country t And ^% lady - - •> 

I PH I G E N lA. 

May I never fee Argos more. 

P Y L A D E S. 
But we have forgot one article. 


Well, ifitisneceffary, we will repeat our oath. 

P Y L A D E S. 

No, lady J there is one condition thou muft confent to. If my 



fliip fhould be fwallowed up in a tempeft, and thy letters with my 
fortune perifh in the wreck : in a word, if I am able to favc oely 
my own life, free me from this obligation. 

I P H I G E N I A. 

1 have thought of a better expedient. I will tell thee the pur- 
port of my letter, and this will lupply its lofs. If thou preferve it, 
it will convey my wifhes to my friends. If the fea, when it fpares 
thee, fhould deftroy my letter, thou wilt be the depofitary of its 

P Y L A D E 5. 

I admire thy prudence, lady. By this expedient neither the 
honour of the Gods, nor my piety, will be wounded. Tell me, 
then, to whom am I to deliver this letter ? 

I PH IG E N lA. 
Say to Orefftes, the fon of Agamemnon — {She reads)^ She who 
writes to tbee^ is that princefs who was facrificed at Aulis^ Iphigenia^ 
-who Hill lives^ though JI:e lived no longer to you. 


Iphigenia ! Oh Heaven ! is it poffible ? She who was facrifioed ' 
upon the altar of Diana i has ihe returned to life ? Where is fhe, 


Thou feeft her now. I am Iphigenia. Interrupt me no more. 
{She continues to read). Ob my brother ^ reflore me to my native coun^ 
try^ deliver me from this inhuman landy and Jrom the fatal honour of 
facrificing to Diana all the Greeks who enter it. 

ORESTES, [In a low voice to Pylades.] 

IPHIGENIA continues to read, 
jigainy I conjure thee^ deliver Iphigenia^ or fhe will become the fury 
of thy houfe. Tes, Oreftes — {To Pylades] I repeat this name, to 
-fix it in thy memory. 


Oh Gods ! 


Why this aftonifhment ? Why do'ft thou call upon the Gods ? 


I PH I G E N I A IN TAU R IS; 33^ 

P Y L A D E S, recovering bimfelf. 
It Is nothing, lady; pray go on. My mind had wandered a little. 
Perhaps, when I prefume to interrogate thee, in my turn, I may 
make difcoveries, which to thee will appear fcarce credible. . 

IPHIGENIA, not reading n&w. 
Tell Oreftes, that Diana fubftituted a hind in my place, which 
my father facrificed, believing he plunged the poniard into my 
bofom, and tha{ the goddefs tranfported me to this land. This is 
the purport of my letter ; and now thou knoweft my fecret, 

P Y L A D E S. 

Oh with what delight can I difengage myfelf this moment from 
the oath by which thou haft To fortunately bound me. Yes, prin- 
cefs, thou fhalt be inftantly obeyed. [To Orejles.l Oreftes, receive 
thy lifter's letter. 


I do receive it : but I need not open it now. Iphigenia, thus 
prefent to my tyts, I enjoy a fatisfaiflion far more perfedl. Oh, 
my iifter, my deareft Iphigenia ! is it thee whom I embrace ? Thou 
art filent ; thou anfwereft not. Struck with an event fo ftrange, and 
fo unhoped for, I can fcarce believe my eyes.— Yes, it is thee whom 
I behold! It is, it is Iphigenia! Oh, unheard of prodigy* ! Par- 
don thefe traniports of a brother's joy. 


«* •The finefl ofall remembrances is that " brance, as in the Cypriades of Dicaoge- 
which is produced by the incidents them- ** nes, where he who faw a pi^ure wept, 
felves, and which by probable means occa- " and his tears made him remember ; or 
fion extreme furprize, as in the Oedipus of *« as in Alctnous, Ulyfles, hearing a man 
Sophocles, and the Iphigenia of Euripides; " play upon the harp, and remembering 
for nothing can be more probable and na- " his foi-mer toils and misfortunes, could 
tU£lL thaii Jhat Qp(Upu$ IhfiUld bp^cuiious. " not reftrain his tears; and by them he 
to know his birth, and that Iphigenia fhould " was known." See alfo the fifteenth chap- 
write a letter to Oreftes, &c,'* Ariftot. ter, where Ariftotle gives great praife to the 
Poet. C. 17. remembrance in Iphigenia. 

This philofopher diftiriguifties four kinds " Whether a poet writes on a fubjeft al- 

of remembrances, one by fenfible marks, as^ " ready known, or invents a new one, it is. 

the fear of Ulyffes ; another by arbitrary, *• neceflary that he (hould form his fable in 

tokens ; a third by reafoning ; and a fourth . *' general, before he thinks of Epifodes ^r 

by memory. The latter deferves a place *• it, and of extending it by circumftances* 

here, on account of thofe two examples of " Thus he will bring his whole fubjeft in. 

it quoted by him> which has been ufed very ** one point of view. For example; this is, 

happily. '* It is done by memory, when *' the fubjedl of Iphigenia, formed in the, 

" an obje^ recalls to our minds fome cir- *' manner I mean« Jyoung frincefi is fla^ed^ 

** cumd^CGfi vifikhr produce the .remem- ** en tbt altartobifactifcedi Jhe di/afpears oh 

Vot.n. ' - . ■ ' F a/ud" 




To them, the C H O R U S. 


What means this prefumption, ftranger? How da/ft thoii 
touch with thy profane hands the (acred veil of a prieftefs ? 


Why dofl; thou decline my embraces ? Oh, Iphigenia, art thou 
not my fiiler ? the daughter of Agamemnon, my father? Am I 
not thy brother ? thatOreftes whom thou never more expeded'il to 

I P H I G E N I A. 

I, am I thy fifter ! Art thou my brother ? Oh feek not to de- 
ceive me. My brother is in Nauplia of Argoa*. 


Ah, unkind Iphigenia L Ami not, then, diy brother.^ 

I PH I G E N I A. 

Art thou the fon of Clytcmneftra ? 

I am, and a defcendant of Pelops.. 


Is it pofSbIc ! What proof can'ft thou give me ? 

The proof I will give thee, is a fccret which concerns thy ielf. 

«« a fit Jdtn from the eyes of tbi fpe&ators^ and 
•* i$ carriidinto another country^ <wberi it is tbi 
•* cuftom tojacrifici ftrangifs to the Goddefs *wBo 
«< frefides o'ver it* She is made friefiefs of that 
•♦ tm^h. Some years after the brother of that 
•• frincefs arri'ves at the fameplact. Why did 
•* he come there ?. In obedience to an oracle, . 
•« This is out of the general and univerfal 
•• fiible. What did he come there for ? 
«* that is out of the fubjeQ. Ueisnofooner 
•* arri*vedy but he is taken : behold him them 
*^ nfon the point ofbfing facrificed. But the 

** remembrance is made in that very no- 
** ment, either as Euripides has imagined,. 
** or according to the verifimilitude which 
'* Polydes has very well obferved in making. 
*« that prince fay, Itisnotenongbformyfifter 
" to have been facrifced^ but Jalfo muft bind. 
<< upon an altar. And this preferved him." 
Ariftot. Poet. Ch. i8.. 

t Nauplia, a city in the kingdom of 
Argos, fo called becaufe it was a fca-port,. 



I P H I G E N I A. 

Speak, then. 

Anlwer my queftions firft. Do'ft thou know, Iphigenia ♦, the 
fatal difcord between Thyeftes and Atreus ? 

I PH I G E N lA. 

Fame has infonned me of it. It was occafioned by the Golden 


Do'ft thou remember a piece of embroidery wrought by thy 
own hands ? It reprcfents this hiftory. 


Deareft ftranger - -{jifide) Oh, my fond heart, how fain would 
it acknowledge a brotner ! 


And the Sun eclipied. 


I remember it; it was wrought with my own hands. 


Did not a mother at Aulis pour the luftral water on thee - - - 

I PH I G E N lA. 

Ah, it is too true ! Such was the fatal marriage to which they 
doomed me. 

Why did'ft thou fend thy hair to Cly temneftra ? 


To be fpread upon my tomb.j 

But there remains a proof more certain. Thou know'ft that cele- 
brated fpear with which Pelops killed Oenomaiis, when he won 
Hippodamia at Pifa. I faw it in thy apartment* 

* In thetextat is Eleftra. But, without error of the copyifts, who have written 

entering into the different reafons given for *k^6tlf«, inftetd of *lf lywu, •which agrees with 

it by the commentators, it is fuffident to the meafure of the rerfes. 
agree with Barnes, that this muft be an 

F2 I PHI- 

• 36 ^I i? H 1 C £ N I> ^rN ^ A^U R I S. 


Enough, enough, my dearOreftcs. Yes, thou art Ofefle$. 
What other name can my affeSion give thee ? Oh, thou art all 
that's dear to hie~-Mv only brother, my Oreftes ! And do I then 
behold th6e here, fo far from Argos ! On, my brother ! 


And am I fo happy to fee again a fifter who was believed to be 
in the gloomy regions of the dead ! Ah, my eyes, like thine, are 
filled with tears of joy. 

I P H I G E N I A. 

I left thee, I, fcarce weaned from the bofom thou 
hadft fucked. Scarce did'ft thou know thy parents and thy family. 
Oh my brother ! Oh indulgent heaven ! My dear Oreftes, what 
(hall I fay to thee I how exprefs my joy, my wonder, at this bleft 
event, this more than miracle ! 


Thus reftored to each other, never more will we be feparated ; 
nothing now ihall difturb our happinefs. 

I P H I G E N I A, .[*o tbeCborus.] 
Oh, my loved friends, you who take a tender fhare in all my 
various fortunes, behold me now entranced in this unhoped for 
joy. But alas ! I have but* too much reafon to apprehend that 
it will efoape my eager gralp like a vain phantom. Oh Argos, 
oh Mycene, my deareft country, what do I not owe to thee for 
fuch a brother ! Thou gaveft him birth ; in thy bofom he was 
iiouriihed. This is thy glory, and my happinefs. 


Yes, Iphigenia, we are happy in an illuftrious birth. But oh, 
if we refle6t on the miferies our lives have been fubjeded to, what 
little reafon have we to boaft of that advantage ! 


What, indeed; was my mifery, when mv unfortunate father 
"prepared to plunge the facred knife into my neart ? 


Why doft thou recal this fatal remembrance ? Scarce can I be- 
lieve I fee thee now alive. 


Il>H I GIENIA IN :ta:u:r I S. 57 


I was deprived of the glorious titleof Achilles' wife, and deliver- 
ed up to furious wolves. Ah, brother, tears, groans, and defpair, 
furrounded that fatal altar ! 

O U E S T E S. 

Detefted ceremony ! 

How have I lamented Agamemnon's unnatural decree I Ah bar- 
barous, dh inhuman father ! 


What a feries of calamities ! Arid oh, Iphigenia, if forced by 
fome bla&k Divinity, thy flaughtering hands had taken a brodhier's 


Oh horrid thought! Alas, my dear Oreftes, I reproach myfelf 
for having pafled the. /hocking doom ---Ah, how near wert thou 
the iuflFering it ! Execrable deed ! Oreftes Sacrificed by his lifter I 
What horror ! Alas, where will our misfortunes end ! By what 
happy chance /hall we be delivered ? What expedient fliall I find 
to fave a brother from a cruel death, to. prevent thefe altars from- 
itreammgwSth his blood! By 'what methods fhall I deliver him 
from this inhuman land, and fend him back to Argos ! My dear 
Oreftes, think of fome "Avay to efcape the danger with which thou 
art threatened 5 wilt thou attempt to fly rather by land than fea ? 
But oh, how many perils m»ft thou dare ! How many favage na- 
tions, how many frightful countries, muft thou pafs through 

Yet how canft thou iail between the Cyanees- - Oh Heaven, how 
wretched am I now ! How will thefe obftacles be removed ? What 
God, what mortal, whit happy (ihance, will fmooth the way to 
our efcape, and put a period to our misfortunes ? 


• Delighted with the wonders we have heard, Oreftes, we now con- 
fefs, that the eriibraces of friends- who meet thus unexpectedly are 
lawful. Tears and complaints are now unfeafonable— -The qucf- 
tion is, how to prefcrve thy life, and fecure thy efcape, from thefe 
- ihhuman fhores ? The wife feize opportunity, and take pleafurc 
in freeing themfelves from the capricious hand of fortune. 




Fortune herfelf will affift us ; unfavourable as flie hath hitherto 
l)een, yet I hope all from her. Is not this Goddefs more power- 
ful than mortals ? 

I P H I G E N I A. 
Thou haft informed me of every thing that concerns my family; 
only the deftiny of EleiSlra, which I take fo tender an intereft in, 
I know not yet, 

Elcftra is happy. She is tlie wife of my friend whom thou 
beholdeft here, 

I PH I G E N lA, 
Say, who is he ? Who is his father ? What his country f 

O RE S t E S. 

Strophius of Phocis is his father. 

I P H I G E N I A. 

Oh Heaven ! Anaxibia the daughter of Atreus is his mother, 
then, and we are by blood united. 

Yes, we are united by blood, but by friendfhip much more 

IPH I G E N lA. 

He was not born when Agamemnon facrificedme to Diana. 


He was not j for Strophius was fome time without having any 
pledge of his marriage. 

I P H I G E N I A. [To Pylades.] 

Oh fpoufe of Eleftra, my loved fifter, how dear is thy prefence 
to me ! 

The deliverer of Oreftes* By this title he is dearer to me than 
that of kinfman« 

I P H I G E N I A. 
But oh, my brother, is it poffible that thou could'ft arm thy 
xruel hands againft a mother's life ! 



No more ofihkj my Mer, I revenged a father's murder^ 

What fury urged Clyteixmftera to that execrable deed I 

Let Wf if poflible^ foi^et a mother's crimes. It is- not fit that 
diou {hodtd'A hear the fad relation. 

I P H I G E N I A. 
I vnH enquire no more. But fay^ is not the ic^tre of Aigos im 
thy hands? 


Men^us reigns in Argos, and I am an exile*. 

1 P H I G E N I A. 

How ! has Agamemnoa's brother ruined the remains of an udk 
fortunate family I 


No; the dread of the Furies, which purfue me, forced me ta 
abandon my native country. 

I PH TG E N lA. 

Ah, this was the frenzy, then, the faid cffcds of which I was; 
informed of. 

Alas ! I have been often feen in that unhappy ftate. 


Ah, my brother, I underftand thee. The Furies^ take vengeance 
on thee, then, for the murder of thy mother. 

' Dreadful is their vengeance > their bloody flings have aInio:ffi: 
reached my heart. 

Wl^ did'ft thou approach diis unknown (hore I 

I came in Qbedlence to the Oracle of Apollow 

tPH I G E N lA. 

With what defign? Isit afccretwhich.thoifcdar'ftnorrereatT 

4^ l'P?Hr:IlG;BrN: I A I N: ^A^U :Ri I ^.: 

Thou fMtrknOT!,- IphigMW; lAftcir the. rf^ripiftljCwiwyju^by 
Clytemncftra, a crime ,w|iich I,bujy.m Aler\cc, and my revenge, 
the Eumenidc5 feized me, and baniflicd me from my country. 
Apollo alfo obliged me to travel to Athens*, to appear before 
thofe Divinities -f-, whocft wc treiebl? to n^me. That awcful tri- 
burtal |i to^whafe decree Jupiter forced, the God Mars himfelf to 
fubmit, when he had polluted hi§ hands vi^ith murder. When !» 
arrived, they looked on me as an execrable wretch, an enemy to 
the Gods, All hearts^ all doors, vwrc fhut againft me. Tnofe 
who ftill retained feme- rcfpea for the iacred laws.of hofpitality, 
received me at lengthy but would neither admit me to theit table, 
nor their converfation. Alone^ without companion, without con- 
verfe, though furrounded with crowds, I livoi in foUtude, To 
palliate this difgraceful feparation, each guqft ufed to drink wine 
out of his own cup I|, they had not one in common, as ufuaK I 
diflembled my grief and indignation at this affront; for I durft not 
complain ; but my heart was torn with remorfe andfhame for the 
parricide I had committed. I have fince been ^informed, that my 
misfortune gave rife to a feftival at Athens, which ftill fubfifts, in 
honour of the cup of libation. Refolved to fubmit to the judg-- 
ment of the Areopagus^ I entered^ and took a feat, as being the 
accufed-; the other was occupied by the chief of the Eunjenides, 
my accufer. Apollo heard, and fpoke in my defence. Minerva- 
herfelf counted the fuffrages^ and I left th? place abfolved. The 
reft of the Furies, difTatisned witfi the judgment of the Areppagus, 
would not quit mcj and from that day have harrafTed me with in- 
ceflant wanderings. At length I returned to Delphos. I took nb 
nouriflbmcnt, but proftrated myfclf before the altar of ApoUo, re- 
folved to die, unlefs this Deity, who had beea th^ fol.e ca\ife of n>y^ 
misfortunes, would now. become the author of my prefervation. 
Immediately J heard a. voice proceeding from the facred Tripod §, 

• In the Greek it is, On/cot. that Oreltcs was charged with the guilt o*. 

t The ancients avoided as much as pof- perrkider was7not wming either to reje£k 

fible naming the Furies* The word Eume- him,* or to fit with him at his table, but con- 

nides Teemed to them lefs terrible. There ttiTed^to have him .femui feparate)y'; ^d, 

is the fame difference between thofe two to palliate this affront, he ordered that each 

words, as between ^evil and ^femMmth us* of the guefis (hould have a cup to himfelf, 

t This tribunal was the Areepagusi fo which was contraiy to, cuftoin. This was 

called, becaufe Mars was the firft who un- the foundation of the feftival called *Eofni» 

derwent there the fentence of tb« tweUjp I^ x^tftk, The cig) named x^ was an Attic 

vinities. meafure. 

JJ Dj^mophoa^ king o^ AtUens; finding §- In Greek, of^d.- 

- ' ^ which 

liP« ICCNf A IN TAUR I 8. 41 

whick commanded -Txve to £ajl to diis couniiry^ aod brjqg awfty the 
ftatue dsiat fell from heaven^ to plai^tf qt ia Athens, ^udi 
are the orders of.ApoUo— -~Bot rh&u, my -fiftqr, muft ef?ift roc 
to accomplifh them. If I can, get poffeflion of this facred pledge, 
I {hall be delivered from the Furies: We will embark together in 
'iny flnp> and I will eonrey fhee to Mycene. Once more, my dear 
Jphigenia, J cofijwe thee, Ave thyfelf, lave thy brother, fave the 
remains of a deplorable family. The fate of Pelops*Tace is in thy 
hands. We are loft, unle^ dbe cdeftial ftatue is removed to 

^CH O R U S. 
Alas ! with what.^iisfortuncs have the angry Gods 0Yerwlielm-- 
ed the race of Tantalus ! 

IPH4 G* N'lA. 

Bdfore thy arrival there, my brotlKr, l.hmguiihed in cea&lefs 
wilhes to return to Argos, ana to fee thee oouQe. more. Still doti 
wifh it. I would pricjferve. a brjother, ,1 would rekindle the dying 
embers of an iUuftrious'houfe, (for Pforget my,fiither was, my 
murderer). TNFo, my Oreftes, tnou fhilt not die ; our name fhall 
furvive in Bxxtfyy, h&w ihaJI Ifteal aivay the image of the 
Gx)ddcls ? .How ihall I deceive the king ? When he finds. tfje .altar 
robbed of the ftatue, he will know that mincmijft be the ittie&. 
What excufc (hall I fbrmiA) fatiify him ? "Ah, if it were poffible 
for thy.fchemes tpfiicoecd,, if. thou, could'ft carry mo away with 
the Goddefs, if this glorious enterprize could be executed— But 
no, it cannot be ^ Oreftes* fballfee again his native country ; the 
wretched Iphigeniaimift iftay;andperifli«'«-<rt matters not«*--<What 
dangers would I not meet to iave a brother ! Even death itfelf on 
that condition woutd be welcome. Freely will I eypofc ciy- life 
'*to purchafe thine, my dear Oreftes. I am but a daughter, ai^d 
thou art the only prop of our almoft ruined hoiife. 

•O^R jE S T'E S. 

'Ah, Iphrgenla, the <jrods ' forbid I fliould be twice a parricide. 
I am too guilty already, by amc^er's blood. — No, my fifter, our 
deftinies fliall be the fame ; we will either Hve or;die togethirA I 
wiU convey thee back to Greecp, .or.clfe^Taurica.iball^be Qjir 
common tomb. But think'ft thou, , Iphigeniat thajt, . if this-re- 
moval of her ftatue. was dii^^eable to (be Goddeis,. Apollo would 
liave commanded' atatoatteient it ? Would hcf hsveWcft-me with 

y«ulL G this 


this happy meeting ? No, no, the propitious Deity has not deceiv- 
ed me. The more Ithinkof thefe furprifing events, the ftrong- 
er are my hopes, that all v^ill yet end happily for us. 

I P H I G E N I A. 

But how will it be poffible to carry away the ftatue, and efcape 
the death which threatens us ? We would effc& all this, but, alaS^,' 
wifhes do little. 


Let us kill the tyrant. 

I P H I G E N I A. 

Ah ! what is it thou fay'ft, my brother ? Would'ft thou violate 
the facred laws of hofpitality ? 


This muft be done, Iphigenia, if we can by no other means gre- 
ferve thy life and mine. 


* I can neither approve a crime, nor blame your courage.. 

ORESTES, after a little paufe. 
Well, let us quit this defign, then— Can you not conceal meijn- 
the temple, and — 

And Co endeavour to efcape, favoured by the darknefs ? 

O R E S T E S. 

Night is as favourable to fraud, as light to truth* 


But the temple is filled with guards ; how fhall we be able to 
deceive their watchful eyes ? 


Oh Heaven ! then we arc lofl, what can we now refolve on ? 

I have this moment thought of an expedient. 

* Barnes is certainly in the light; the not txeaUt iu The fenfe would not be fo 
text ought to be read km 9&nra\^M^ 1 cannot beautiful. The following lines fliew that 

. ^jffrtvi irimft and BOt nuAiinn^ Iuuh diis corre^n was juft. 




Say, deareft, Iphigenia> what is it i 


I will take advantage of thy frenzy to fave thy life. 


How ingenious is thy fex ! How fruitful in refburces ! 

I will reveal the parricide thou haft committed. 

I permit thee ; fince it muft be fb, let my ihisfortunes be made 
ufeful to us. 


I wUl declare that it is not lawful to facrifice fuch vi^ms. 


But why ? I would know th^ reafon thou wilt aUedge. 


The vidim being polluted, it is neceiTaiy he Should be purified. 


But how will this artifice enable us to carry off the ftatue ? 


My defign is to have thee purified In the waves of the fea? 

But the ilatue, Iphigenia, is in the temple. 


I will pretend that the ftatue, being profaned by thy touch, muft 
be purified likewife. 


Where ? near the fouthem {hore! 

Yes, in the very place where thy (hip lies at anchor. 

But will not fome other perfon be employed in this office ? To 
whole care will the ftatue be confided P 



To mine» I only have the prvt'ikgi^ to CDueh it. 

What part muft Pyiades a£l uz this ad\!«nturc i 

I PH rO E N I A. 

I will dedofe th^thtf alfo is poUated with the fame crimen 

O R E ff T E S^ 
Wilt thou do aH dm-unknown to die king? 

I FH r QE N lA. 
How ii fiM poffibhf ? Noi I wiE docdvc him by theie pre« 

It «Fili Atft be difficult ta oiafce our efi:ape afterwards by the 
force of our oars* , ' 

I PHid ETNrrA. 

Thou, my brother, muft take d&re of all the reft.^ Our fuc-^ 
cefs will then depend on thee. 

Or R E S T E ^. 

All that now remains is to engage A3rwomen to fecrefy. En*- 
deavour by fetim&^e language to prevail on them. Eloquence is^ 
natural to thy fex. Do ^y pait, Iphigema^, I will do mine, andi 
Heaven will, crown ourwifhes. 

I P H I G E N t A^ /(I tbe Chorus. 
My dear companions, on you depends my happinefs or mtfery,, 
my return or my death. The deftiny of my bromer and kinfmam 
is in your hands- Tbt oiify hvaat I require of you is fidelity; 
that quality fo gloi'ious, yet £> rarely found, but. peculiar to our- 
gentlc fex. Women, tender and faithful to their mutual interefts,, 
affift each other. Ah, l*jr your fijeiice^ atleaft, favour our efcape.. 
By one fortune we muft all be laved or periih. It is your intereft 
not to betray us. Your fafety depends on mine ; by fecuring my 
return to my native country, you v^l fecure your own^ When I 
am in Greece, t will not be unrttiitdfulof yourfliavcry. Receive my, 
tender embraces. Behold at your feet the daughter of Agamemnon... 
She coxijures you l^ thefe hands, by thefe knees, which, fhe holds, 
embraced ; by your parents^ by your children, if you have any; by 
all that is moft dear and precious to you, (he conjures you not to. 

3 betray 


betray her. Speaks my dear companions^ which of you will re- 
fufe or ^vc me her confent ? Confult among vourfclves. If any one 
among you diiapproves of our intended flighty my brother and I 
muil perifh.. 


Princefs^ difmifs thy fears of us^. and only think of the moftjsf- 
ledtual means of Baking thy eicape. — We fwear (and oh» ,^eat 
Jupiter,, be witneis to our words), we fwear to thee an j^ternaL 


May the Gbds reward you for this generofify, and crown youi 
with their choiceft hleilings I Thoas will be here immediately to« 
know whether the iacrifice is performed. Brother^ thou and thy 
friend muft now withdraw. 



Oh thoui who formerly didft driver me from Ae murdering: 
lancfe of Agamemnon, oh, great Diana! protect us now. If thou: 
do'ft not vouchafc to aiiift us, what mortal will hereafter give faith' 
to the ontdes of Apo]lo^?^This bajrbarous land is not a habitation, 
fit for thee, bright Groddefs.. Athens, the celebrated Athens, waits^ 
thee.. Oh quit, for her, a place unworthy of thy prefence ! 



Oh tender bird, that wandering on the rocks,, wakes^ the loncStnoPH* i: 
echo to repeat thy funeral cries ! oh gentle * Halcyon, whofe foft 
knguage wife naortal^ und e rft and, for a loved fpoufc thou wecpeft ! 
My forrows refemble thine : Far from my native country, Ifigh 
for the loved fociety of Greeks. Oh where /hall I find wings 
to bear me to Diana, the Goddefs -j- of Cynthus ! When fliall I 

• Alcionc, the daughter of Eolus, hav- ated in the midft of Delos, aniflandofthe 
ifig loft her hufhand Ceyx, wept for him in- Egean fea, famous for the birth of Apollo > 
cdTantly, and was changed into a Halcyon, and Diana. . 

t Cynthus, or Cynth, a mountain fitu- 




Ant I ST RO- 

PH£ I. 

again behold the palm& of Delos, thofe laurels blooming with infi^ 
mortal verdure, thofe olives confecratcd by Latona's maternal pains! 
Oh that lake *, on whofe/:lear bofom fo many fwans are fporting ! 
Ah thofe fv\rans, the Mufes friends, v^rhen, v^rhen fhall my glad 
eyes again behold them ! 

Alas, with what ccafclefs grief have I bewailed my miferable for- 
tune, when after the ruin of my country, I was brought to this 
barbarous land ! Here I became a flave, apurchafedflave, and was 
deftined to the fervice of Agamemnon's daughter, the prieftefs of 
this temple ! Here have I paflcd'my wretched days, confined to 
altars reeking with the blood of human vidlims. Oh miferable 
flavery ! — Inured to misfortunes from our birth, they ceafe to af- 
fli<fl us ; they riiay change their afpeft, and the heart knows how to 
fufFer. But ah, when we have once been happy, how dreadful 
then the change to mifery and dcfpair ! 
Strophe II. Bleft Iphigenia ! how different is thy fate from ours ! Every 
thing confpires to favour thee. A veffcl -f- waits thee near the 
ftiore. Soon will it cut the waves to the fprightly found of mufic. 
Phoebus with his J lyre. Pan with his rural pipe, will foften all 
thy labours, and fmooth thy courfe to Greece. Soon fliall I be- 
holxl the foaming waves divided by the oars : Soon will the wind 
fwell every fail, and give thy veffel wings, while I am left upon 
this fatal land. 

Why can J jiot jfly above thofe vaft fpaccs where the fun begins, 
and finifties his courfe ? Ah, I would flop my flight over my pater- 
nal houfe. There fhould I again behold thofe places fo dear to my 
remembrance, where in the firfl bloom of youth; and. by a mo- 
ther's tender care fupported, I gave my nuptial faith : where I 
alone charmed all the guefls : where I difputed the prize of beauty 
with my fair companions, when, veiled with becoming grace, 
and with rich jewels my flowing hair adorned, I was invited to 
difputc the envied prize. 

* Herodot. in Euterp, tells us, that this 
lake was calledTrocheide. 

t With fifty rowers, Ttmmtro^, 
X Offcvenftrings. 




T H O A S, the CHORUS. 

T H O A S. 

WHERE is the prieftefs? Has fhe initiated . the vidims ? 
Are their bodies confuming in the facred fire ? 


Great king, the prieflefs comes, flie will inform thee herfelf. . 

SCENE the S E C O N D. 


T H O A S. 

What do I iee ? the ftatue in thy arms, why haft thou taken it! 
from the holy place ? 


,£top, prince; go no farther. 

What is the meaning of this ? Sure fomething atraordinary har 
happened in the temple. 

A horrible accident has indeed happened — I ihall profane my 
lips to repeat it to thee. 

T H O A S. 

How thou furpriieft me ! But go on,—- (peak, Iphigenia.. 


The vidims thou did'ft fend me are impure.. . 

T H O A S. 

Who has told diee &>l What reafon haft thou to imagine they . 
are impure P 

The moment they appeared before the Goddefs; At tumeddfide 

T H O A S. 


T H O A S. 

Was this motion bccafioned by an carthquaKe ? 

I P H I G E N I A. 

No, felf-moved, the ilatue turned, and clofed its eyes vnth hor- 

T H O A S. 
What can be the caufe of this prodijgy ? Is it the profanation of 
the victims ? 

I P H I G E N I A. 
Moft certainly. They have committed an attrocious crime. 

T H O A S. 

Have they mardered any stranger upon the ihore ? 


No; theirs is a d<imeftic crime. They came hither loaded 
with the guilt of it. 
I T H O A S. 

What have they done ? I am impatient to know. 


They have murdered their mother. 

T H O AS. 
Oh great i^xilol ■* baii>aiiaa is not CtfMc ti 'aciflite fo 


Tbercfore-they are e;cecrated by all Greece, and have been ba- 
tilfhed by their fellow-citizens. 

T H O A ^. 
But why k the Goddefs removed ? 

Toexpofe her to a- purer air ; the criminals have profimftdlt. 

Ha i bow kaveybu difcovered this profimatko ? 


After the prodigy related to you, I difcovered all. 


ll^HIGfekiA IN TA%iR.ig. 


T H O A S. 

Yhy wifdom, Iphigenia, fliewsto what country thotioweft thy 

I P k I G E N 1 A. 

Could'ft thou have thoUfeht it, prince i thefe ftrangers, whom I 
am preparing to facriiice, nave overtvhelnied me with joy. 

T H O A S. 

Doubtlefs, by bringing thee news from Argos. 

I PH I G E N lA. 

They have informed nie, that Oreftes, my only brother, is 

t H O A S. 
'f hey hoped to purchafe their lives by telling thee this agree- 
able news. 

And that Agamemnon, my father, lives. 

^T H O A Sf. 

But thou, without fuffering tHyfelf to be moved by fruitlefs pity, 
liaftcome out of the temple to begin the facred ceremony ? 

1 P H I<5 E N I A. 

My hatred to an unigratcful c6iinlry, which doomed me to 
death, has banifhed all my compaffion for thefe vidims, 

T HO A S. 
But wbzt fliaH we do with thefe ftrangcrs ? Speak freely. 


The law ordains that they (hall die : we muft not violate iu 

Where, then, is the luftral water, and the facred knife ? 

I P H I G E N I A. 

Thefe guilty vidims muft fii^ft be purified. 


In the fea,' or in fome pure ftream' ? 


50 I PH I G E N lA IN TAU R I & 

I P H I G E N I A. 

* The fea wafhes away all the crimes of mortals. 

T H O A S. . , 

The vidims will then be more acceptable to Diana. 


And my office will be lefs difhonoured. 

T H O A S. 

Well, Iphigenia, the waves of the fea dafh againft the bottom; 
of the temple, what need, then— 


Great prince, this myftery requires privacy. An aflair of more 
importance makes it neceflary for me to go to a greater diftance. 

T H O A S. 

Go where thou pleafeft. I indulge not a criminal curiofity -f coa- 
cerning facred things. 


The ftatue of the Goddefs muft be purified-. 

T H O A S. 

Certainly fo execrable a crime has polluted it. 


Otherwife I ihould not have removed it from the facred'place. 

T H O A S. 

I applaud thy piety, and thy attention to thy holy funftion. 

But there is ftill ibmething more to be done.. 

What is it i^ Speak. 


The ftrangers muft be loaded with chains. 

* Such ftill is the opinion of the Indians, fea, according to the advice of the Egyptian 
who attributed to the fea a fovereign virtue priefts, when he took a voyage to Egypt 
for effacing fins. It is relatedi that Euripi- in company with Plato. 

des wrote thefe lines in alluiion to a difeafe.. f Sudi was the pcofound veneration of 
ef whidi he was' cured by bathing in the the Pagans. 



T H O A S. 

Whither can they fly ? 

I P H- 1 G E N I A. 

Thou art ignorant of the arts and treachery of the Greeks. 

T H O A S. 

Well, let the guards chain them. 

Give orders likewife that theytring them — 

T H O A S. 

I confent to it. 

That they veil their eyes, and give me likewife fome guards for 
an efcort. 

T H O A S, 
Here they are, ready to attend Aee. 


Thou muft likewife conunand the inhabitants — 

T H O A S. 

To do what ? 

To Qmt themfelves up in their houfes. 

T H O AS. 

They muft not behold the facrifice, then? 


Ah ! that would be an abomination. 

T H O A S, to one of bis Officers. 
Go, proclaim throughout tht city, a prohibition to be prefent 
at the facrifice. 

This follicitude, oh Thoas, is a proof of thy tender regard for 
thy fubjeSs. Thou govern'ft diem as a father. 


Truft me, Iphigenia, fair obje<5t of the public admiration, I 
am charmed with thy prudence; the praifes thou beftoweft on me 
refleft luftre upon thyfelf. 




Prince, it is neceifary that thou fliould'fl remaia here near the 

T H O A S. 
What am I to do ? 

I P H I G E N I A. 

Thou muft purify it. 

T H O A S. 

I underfland thee. At thy return the goddefs ihall find it fo> 


And when the Grangers come out--;- 

T H O A a, . 

What would'ft thou I'fhould do, then? 

I P H I G E N I A» 

Veil thy augufl face. 

T H O A S. 
That my eyes may not be polluted ? 

I PH I G EiN lA. 
Yes, and if I do not return foon— 

Name thy time. 

I PH I G E N lAi 

Be not uneafy. 

T H O A S. 

Well, perform the neceflary ceremonies at leifure, 


Oh, may the Gods grant to this expiation-thedefiredfucpef^j '. 

T H O AS. 
I join my prayers to thine. Adieu.. 




IPHIGENIA, the train of PRIESTS and GUARDS, 
the GREEKS in chains. 


The vidlims come ; the ornaments of the Goddefs, and her 
pompous train appear. The youths who wait around her facred al- 
tar, the flaming torches, all is ready for the aweful ceremony; and 
now I prepare to expiate with blood a bloody crime. Ye citizens, 
I forbid ye to behold this fpeftacle. Far, far from hence be 
thofe mortals who are confecrated to this temple, and all wlio pre- 
ferve their hands inviolate and pure. And you, ye profane, whom 
Hymen is foon to unite ; and you, ye teeming matrons, if you 
would not be polluted with the crime of thefe two guilty Greeks, 
fly the place and facred ceremony. Oh daughter of Latona, 
great Diana, if favoured by ihcc I expiate and iacriiice thefe two 
victims (as I intend) thy facred dwdliftg will be pure, and all our 
wiflies be fulfilled — Enough — I am filent. Oh Gods, and thou . 
Diana, who hear'ft the language^ of the heart, to thee I truft the 
reft : oh be propitious, and grant nae thy afliftance* 


The C H O R U S. 

Begin, my companic«is, begin, and celebrate the praife of Phoe- 
bus and Diana. The fertild vales of Delos * fa\^ tHe immortal 
birth. Who, like the blooming Phoebus, can tcrudr th^ harmo- 
nious lyre. ^ Who, like the chafte Diana, can fling the founding 
dart ? TheDelian Goddefs quitted her floating ifle, and it became 
iairaoveabk. She carried h&c dirine oflfepring to the mountain of 
P^rnaffus, which was confeeratcd to Bacchus : ther6 a dragon -f, 

- with • 

• Delos, which was carried about by the city was fuppofed by the ancients to be in . 

waves, till Latona was delivered of ApoUo the centre of the earth. Jupiter, fays Clau- 

and Diana. dlan, being defirous to mark the middle of 

+ Tiic city, which Hes^ at the foot of the the univerfe, leb fly two eagles, with equal 

mountain ParnalTus, was called at firft by rapidity, the one from the eaft, the other : 

the fame name as the mountain. After from the weft. They met at Ddphos; and 

Pfacebus had killed the ferpentPython^ it was on that occafion two golden eaglet were 

cidled Python : and laftly, Delpho6r This i pl{i^ in^ thMempb'of Ap6Uo. 


54 I P H I G E N I A I N TAtr R I^. 

with a fpotfed flcin, eyes of blood, and teeth of iron,amonfter (prung 
from the earth, lay concealed under a thick laurel, and guarded 
the fubterraneous oracle. Oh, powerful Apollo, thou, although 
an infant hanging on the arms of a mother, thou pierced'ft this 
nionfter witli thine arrows ! This glorious viftory made thee 
nicifter of the facred oracle : feated upon a golden tripod, thou 
unfoldeft iill futurity to mortals. Thy fandluary, near which the 
fountain of luftration flows, is placed in the center of the earth*. By 
thee, oh bright Divinity ! Themis was driven from the place where 
Ihe pronounced her oracles. But the Earth, the mother of The- 
mis, fupported her injured daughter. Oh Phoebus! (he took from 
thee the power of predidting future events ; fhe produced noctur- 
nal fpecSres ; fwarming from her bofom they hover round fleeping 
mortals, and midfl: their flumbers difclofe to them, the prefent, 
the pall, and the future. Apollo, amazed, confufed, raifed his fup- 
plicating hands to the throne of Jupiter. All-powerful Deity! he 
cried, lilence thefe oracles of the night, thefe delufive dreams, and 
appeafe the anger of the Earth. Jupiter fmiled, pleafed and fur- 
prifed at the anxiety of his fon, and that fecret interefted mo- 
tive which engaged him to fccurc to himfelf the profitable homage 
of mankind. He (hook his aweful head, in fign of approbation. 
Immediately the dreams all vanished, the nodturnal illufions dif- 
appeared. To Phoebus he reftored his former honours, and to 
mortals their former confidence. Such was the origin of thy glory, 
O temple of Delphos! thou whofe oracles delivered in verfe^ bring'ft 
to thy altars the inhabitants of the whole -earth. 



Tell me, you who prcfide over this temple, where fliall I find 
the king ? Run to the palaoc-gates, and beg him to fliew himfelf. 

Jupiter, utperhibent, fpatium cum difcere vellet 

Nsiturse, regni nefcius ipfe fxii, 
Armigeros utrtRique duos aequsdibus alls 

Mifit ab Eois occiduifqne plagis. 
PamaiTus geminos fertur junxifle volatus i 

Contulit alternas Pythius axis ayes. Ci. a u o« 

• ApoUodorus, Bibl. B. i.e. 4. fays, that her oracles; and tliat the lerpent Python en- 
Apolio having been taught the art of di- deavouring to hinder his approach, that - 
vmation by Pan, went to Delphos, where Deity killed hiin, and took pofTeilion of the 
Themis, ihe daughter of the Earth, delivered . facred Tripod. 




What is the caufe of this eager folicitude ? Can we approach, 
the king without permiflion ? 

Oh Heaven ! the two Greeks are fled, and, with the affiftance 
of Iphigenia, have carried theftatue of the Goddefs to their (hip. 

e H O R u s. 

What thou fay 'ft is fcarcely credible — but the king has left the 


It is fit he Ihould be inftantly informed of their eicape. Whi* 
ther is he gone ? 

C H O R U S.. 
We know not: do your duty, ieekthe king, and tell him what 
has happened. 

Ah perfidious women I Are not you their accomplices ? 

We ! Thou wrong'ft us by thefc fufpicions,. How were we. 
concerned to facilitate the efcape of thefe Grecians ? 

M E S S E N G E R. 
Well>. then, give the king notice of it. 


Not till we are informed whether he is in the palace. 

MESSENGER, fo the guards wtbin the temple. 
Guards, open the gate, and acquaint the king, that I bring him 
moft affliding news. 


To them T H O A S. 

T H O A S. 

What is the caufe of thefc clamours about the temple ? Who' 
was it that knocked ? What mortalJpireads terror and amazement? 



Pardon mv zeal, great prince ; thefe women have deceived me; 
they would have fent me away, under pretence that the king wae 
not here, and now I fee thee. 

T H O A S. 
What intcreft could they have in thus— « 

My fovereign, thou foon (halt know this treachery ; at prefent 
fomewhat of more importance demands thy ear. The prieftefs,— 
Iphigenia, — has carried away the ftatue of Diana — She is fled with 
the Greeks — This was the m)rftery gf her feigned expiations. 

T H O A S. 

Alas, what fatal news doft thou bring me I What evil genius 
lias fuggeftcd to her this treacherous defign ? 

Oh king, thou wilt be furprifed:tq hear, that all this was done 
to fave Oreftes. 

T H O A S. 

Oreftes ! who, the fon of Clytemneftrarl 

Her brother. She had confecrated him to the Goddefs, at the 
foot of thefe altars. 

T H D A S. 
O miracle of falihoodlfor what-otberimme can I give to this crime? 

M E S.SrEN,Q E.R. 
Wafte not the time, my fovereign, in iniprecatiops, . but pro- 
vide fome remedy againft their treachery. Dfeign to hear what I 
have to fay, and from the account I ihall give-th^i judge whut 
number of troops will be neceflary to ftop the fifgitivieg, 

rr H o A s. 

I approve thy counfd. The fhoce^is hot at a fmaHdiflance; their 
flight {hall not prefcrve them from my indignation. 

M E S S E N G E R. 
Scarce were we arrived at the 'pkee, near v^hich the Grecian 
veflel lay concealed, when Agamcmnon^s daughter made us afign 
to let go our hold' of the chains, with-whichi according to. thy 
orders, thefe victims were loaded, and to remove to fome diftance, 
, pretending, fhft was going to kindle the facred fire, and begin the 



expiation. The prieftefs herfelf held the chains of thefe miferable 
wretches, and walked next them. Thy guards, notwithftand- 
ing their fulpicions, obeyed, and through refpe<a to the facred ce- 
remony, retired. Iphigenia, to deceive us, uttered loud cries, 
fang hymns in a foreign language, and began a difTembled expia- 
tion. . To us, who were feated at a diftance, the ceremony ap- 
peared unufually long. We "began to be apprehenfive that the 
Greeks would break their fetters, maffacre the prieftefs, and make 
their cfcapc; but the dread of cafting a profane eye upon religious 
myfteries kept us filent. At length we agreed to be no longer 
with-held by thefe vain terrors, but to hazard all, and lee 
how the prieftefs was employed. Oh Gods, what was our afto- 
nifhment, when we approached the place, and faw fifty rowers, 
with their oars held up, and a fliip in the fea, ready, like a bird, 
to take her flight ! The Greeks, freed from their chains, appear- 
ed upon the poop, giving orders to Ae mariners : others eagerly 
mounted the ladders to difentangle the tackling : they hurried from 
one place to another ; all was in motion. Already they were pre- 
paring to take Iphigenia on board ; when we, enraged at this trea- 
chery, fupprefTed our fears ; fbme of us feized the prieftefs, the 
reft mounted upon the cables and the oars into the vefTel, took 
pofTeftion of the helm, and forced them to hear us. Why, faid 
we to them, do you attempt to carry away the ftatue and the 
prieftefs from this land ? Upon what pretence ? You will not furc- 
ly allege, that you have purchafed both with gold ? Know, re- 
plied one of them, know that I am Oreftes, the fon of Agamem- 
non, arid the brother of Iphigenia. I have recovered a fifter whom 
I believed to be dead, and I am carrying her to her native country. 
We, however, being determined not to releafe the prieftefs, endea- 
voured to force them to follow us. We came to blows : for both 
parties were unarmed. We fought with fury, but theGreeks over- 
powered us. Fatigued, wounded, and covered with blood, un- 
willingly we yielded to their fuperior numbers* ; not one of us fled 
without a wound. We gained an eminence, and then renewed the 
fight. A fliower of ftones fell upon the Greeks : but foon we faw 
archers appear upon the deck, who drove us back with arrows. That 

• In the original there is a minute account ted it, yet without any prejudice to my 

ofthe wounds cauied by the ftones that were tranflatlon, fmce there is only the differ- 

thrown, and by their blows ; but as it is encc of a few words, 
not agreeable to our maiinerfy I have omit- 

Vol* II. I moment 

58 I P H I G E N I A I K T A U R r ST. 

moment a wave, favourable to them, brought Aeir vcflel nearer 
the fhore. None of the mariners would venture to defcend from 
^e iliip to bring away Iphigenia. But Oreftes, taking hier in his 
arms, quitted the ihore, advanced into the fca, and- climbing up 
the fide of the fliip, placed his fifter there ; when (oh aftonifhing 
prodigy) the ftatue fpoke in thefe terms : " Bend over your oars, 
ye Greeks, and cut the foaming waves. You pofTefs the objeftof 
your wiflies, the Goddefs for whofe fake you have paffed the Eux- 
ine fea, and traverfed the Symplegades." The mariners anfwered 
this voice by a foft murmuring. The fea grew white with foam, 
and the veffel flew from the fhore ; but fcarce had it reached the 
freight, when a furious wave and dreadful blaft of wind puflied it- 
back again towards us. The rowers ftruggled againft both the wind 
and fea, the ebbing of which, in fpite of all their efforts, brought 
them back to our fhorc. •* Oh Goddefs! cried the daughter of 
Agamemnon, rifing from her feat, oh great Diana ! fave thy 
prieftefs, pardon her flight, and favour her return to Argos. Thou 
art a fitter thyfelf. Alas ! thou knowejfl what a filler's tendernefs 
is capable of doing." The mariners applauded this prayer ; they 
ferit forth cries of joy ; they mutually animated each other ; they 
iapplied their nefvous arms with redoubled vigour to the oars -, the 
veflel advanced nearer and nearer to the ftreight. When I was fent 
to thee, great prince, fome of the mariners had jumped into the fea, 
and others were preparing to weigh anchor. Lofe no time, fend chains 
to bind thefe wretches. Depend upon it, if the ftorm does not abate, . 
their hopesof efcaping will be vain. Neptune, the God of the fea, who 
laments the overtnrow of Troy, and is enraged againfl the race of 
Pelops, will afiift thy vengeance. Yes, prince, to thee and thy injured 
fubjedls, he will deliver me fon and daughter of Agamemnon, the 
ungrateful Iphigenia, who after having meanly ft^-got the cruelty 
exercifcd upon her at AuKs, has dared to betray Diana; and 
doubt not but the Goddefs Mrill punifli her as Uie defcrves. 

CHORUS; {j^) 
Oh, unfortunate princefs, thou art delivered into the hands of 
tfaine enemies, what now will be thy fatel Alas, thou and thy 
brother will periih 1 

T H O A S. 

WiU you not, oh citizens, endeavour to ftop thefe traitors ? 
What hinders you from feizing them ? Go, fiy^ purfue them by 



land * andica, and deliver the Goddefs. Bring back thefe impious 
wretches to fuffer the punifhment -f they have deferved- — As for 
you, perfidious women, who have affifted their frauds you (halt 
be feverely punifhed — but let lis inftantly purfue thefe— 


To them M I N E R V A- 


Stay, Thoas, whither art thou leading thefe troops ? Look up, 
and know Minerva, who now ipeaks to thee. I forbid thee to 
purfue the Greeks, and to animate thefe armed crowds againfl 
them. For know, that it was by the command of the Gods 
Oreftes came into thy dominions. Led by the oracle of Apollo^ 
he came to avoid the rage of the Eumcnides, to bring back his 
lifter Iphigcnia, and to tranfport the ftatue of Diana into my fa- 
vourite city. Prince, it is I mat Ipeaks ; hear, and obey. Vain- 
ly thou hopcft to fiirprife Oreftes in the ftreight. Neptune, at my 
requeft, has preferved him from the fury of the waves, and he has 
now paiTed that liquid plain. Oreftes, it is to thee diat I fbeak 
now ; (for though far diftant, thou wilt hear the voice of a Divi- 
nity) depart, and happily purilic thy voyage, accompanied by the 
ftatue of the Goddefs, and by Iphigenia. When thou arriveft in 
Athens, remember, that on the confines of Attica, and near the 
Caryftian :j: fliore [|, a facred fpot of ground, there thou muft build 
a temple, and place the ftatue of Diana in it. She will ftill keep 
her name of Taurica, in memory of thy wanderings and frenzy. 
Mortals ihall from henceforward oiFer her their vows and incenfe, 
under the name of the Goddefs of Taurica. They fliall celebrate 
the feftival of thy deliverance 5 and thou ftialt eftablifti it for a law, 
that a fword ftiall then be waved over the head of a human vic- 
tim, and fome drops of blood, fprinkled in honour of Diana, (hall 
hold the place of human facrifices. Thou, Iphigenia, ihalt become 
Ae pr i#ft#fe of th a Godd e fo at Bf auron §1 ^fni «h«f# f«mwal hoaews 

• In the original, en borfeback, atidinjbifi. |J Jt prefent n^ peiifU taU it Alas Arapbem 

t TLo be thrown down a precipke, 9r w bt im' dW/. 
t^'^* ^ § Brauron, a city of Attica, where the 

J It IS over agaUift Cajyftos, a city of ftatue was carried. SecPAUSAN. inJu. He 

Eubea, towards the ftuthcra cxtrcouty of places it near Maratlwa. 

I 2 fhall 


fhall be paid thee. On thy tomb Ihall be fpread embroidered veft- 
ments, bequeathed by women who expired in the pangs of labour. 
Oreftes, thou muft procure thy filler's companions their liberty and 
return into their native country. This thy gratitude to me and 
them demands. Laftly, remember that in the Areopagus, when 
thou waft accufed of parricide, I gave thee an equal number of fuf- 
frages, and thou waft abfolved*. I ordain that thiscuftom fhall be 
perpetuated, and extend to all criminals. On thefe conditions, 
oh fon of Agamemnon ! convey thy fifter back to her native coun- 
try ; and do thou, Thoas, fupprefs thy indignation, and fubmit 
to my commands. 

What madnefs, what impiety, would it be to refufe obedience 
to the orders of a Divinity ! Yes, great Goddefs, although Oref- 
tes has robbed me of the celeftial ftatue, I will no longer be his 
enemy. Is it fit for a mortal to oppofe the Gods ? Let him go to 
Athens : let him place the ftatue there; I confenttoit. I will 
fend thefe women back to Greece, and will ftop my army and 
the vefTels which were preparing to purfue thefe fugitives. Such 
is thy will, oh Goddefs, and thou malt be obeyed. The will of 
the Go4s fhall find no rebels here. 


Breathe favourable gales, ye winds, and bear to Athens the fon 
of Agamemnon ; fpeed his voyage. Myfelf> in refpeft to the ftatue 
of the Goddefs, my fifter, will accompany his veflfel. [To the 
Chorus J\ Go, happy Grecians, and blefs the deftiny that has pre* 
ferved you thus unexpededly. 


Oh great Divinity, whom Gods and men revere, we obey thy 
awcful voice. Sweet is the hope thou giveft us; welcome the gra- 
cious words thou haft pronounced. May vidlory flill flied its luftre 
on our days, and crown them with immortal fame J. 

• Euripides, and other authors likewife, faid, that it was but juft to give a favour- 

have traced the origin of this cuftom as far able fufFrage to the name of the Goddefs of 

back as Oreftes. But fome believed that it Athens, which afterwards pafTed into a law. 
firfttook place on account of Thcmiftodes, % Thefe lines, with which likewife the 

who was furprifed in adultery, andthefuf- Oreftes and the Phenidans condude, are 

frages ^r and againft him being equal, one (poke in allufion to the poet, who carried 

of the judges, who was defirous to favc him, away the prize from his competitors. 





IT is eafy to perceive, by die laft fcene of this tragedy, that the 
poet's (kfign was to flatter Atticay by celebrating her ancient 
ceremonies^ her religious cuftoms, and her monuments in honour 
of Diana, as we have obferved in the third difcourfe. This was 
the motive which induced Euripides to bring Minerva, the God- 
defs of Athens, before the eyes of the Athenians, and to put thofe 
words into her mouth, with which we cannot poffibly be afFedted 
now. It is not to be doubted, but this de£re of nattering the 
Athenians often engaged him to finifh his plays by machines, wiiich 
he indeed ufes very familiarly. But notwithftanding that we are 
not now interefted in thefe machines, which prejudice us againft 
the poet, becaufe he ipeaks to us in a ftile foreign to our manners; 
yet this tragedy has fo many paflages worthy of applaufe, that 
thofe beauties, which are equally perceived in every age, are fuf- 
ficient to prove, that there were other tranfitory and temporary 
beauties over which the curtain is now drawn. But to complete 
the impreffion which a fingle reading muft certainly have made, 
and to feparatc whatever is likely to weaken it* we will take a 
curfbry view of each adt : 

The firft begins with a prologue, abfolutely detached from the 
piece, and part of it muft neceffarily feem tedious now. One can- 
not help being furprifed at this afFe<ftation of perfpicuity in Euri- 
pides, to which Sophocles has attained, without any of thofe im- 
proprieties. Iphigenia comes upon the ftage to relate the hiftory 
of her life, and her adventures, not fo much to the echoes as to 
the audience. This is what Seneca has imitated exactly in his 
play. He is only a Grecian in this fault : but if we overlook it in 
Euripides, we (hall find that his defcription of the dream is grand 
and q^ffefting. It is the bud which by degrees opens into the whole 


^6tl OB S E R vat I O N S U P on 

After the prologue, Orcftcs and Pylades appear. But, between 
the firft, fecond, and third fccnes, there is a break, which is called 
Hiatus: an inconfiderable fault indeed) but which is aggravated 
by the repetition. It ceafes, however, to (hock us, when we r^- 
flefb that Iphigenia goes off the ftage> only to make preparations 
for a funeral ceremony, and returns only to perform it. So that 
;fhe gives occafion for Oreftes to form a fcene independent of the 
two others. After all, this expofition of the fubjcft is not lefs in- 
terefting than that of the Eledtra of Sophocles, with which this 
poem is nearly connedted. 

The Chorus, led naturally by the prieftefs Iphigenia's orders, 
come to Slflift her in the melanchoUy facrifice, which fhe makes for 
k brotlier whom (he fuppofes dead. Delightful error ! which, be- 
fides the fpeftacle it produces, renders Iphigenia's furprize more 
affedting, when fhe unexpe<3edly beholds again that beloved brc3^ 
.ther, whofe lofs fhe had lb lately lamented. 

The fecond a£t opens with a fcene, which, lively as it is, needs 
'fome indulgence in our days. It is the account given by the (hep- 
herd to Iphigenia, of the feizing the two Greeks, their diftrcfs, 
and their combats before they were taken. Iphigenia's reflexions' 
upon the facrifice flic is going to^perform ; upon her infenfibility, at 
which fl>e herfelf is furprized ; upori Helen and Menelaus ; upon 
the barbarity with which (he had been devoted to death, produce 
an admirable effeft; as well as the wiflies expreffed by the Chorus 
to return to their own country : wiflies fo natural, that they im- 
perceptibly difpofe us for what is to follow, without fufpe<fting the 
defign of the poet, which is notdifclofed till the conclufion of the 

In the third aft, the victims are led to the facrifice ; and then 
begin thofe pleafing emotions which rife in the minds of the fpec- 
tators at the fight of a brother, whom the laws of the country 
doom to die by the hand of a fitter. The brother and fifter are, 
without knowing it, in a truly tragical fituation. Oreftes, un- 
moved with his approaching fate, and determined to die unknown; 
Iphigenia in tears, either through an inftindt of nature, or from 
a fentiment of compaflion for die unhappy vi<9:ims, thofe vidkims 
'being Greeks. If fuch an event was to happen^ could it pof- 
Jibly happen otherwife than as it is here reprefentcd i The ques- 


tions of eager curiofity afked by the fifter, the ambiguous anfwers 
of the brother, make the whole art of this fituation. The veil rifes 
by flow dcgrees,^ and the perplexity increafes in proportion as the 
difcovery advances. Iphigenia learns at firft, that Mycene is the 
country of thcfe two captives ; what a fource of curiofity to her ! 
' what natural fenfibility in her queftions, and in the fighs which 

f cfcape her ! Yet ftill the fccret remains undifcovered : and this 

firft converfation terminates in a refolution taken by the prieftefs, . 
to give one of the captives his life, on condition, tha^he will carry 
a letter from her to her friends in Argos, While fhe retires to 
write this letter, the Chorus (as I imagine) follow her, after 
having in a few words condoled Oreftes, and congratulated Pyla- 
des : at Icaft they removed to a greater diftance. For they could 
not hear the converfation in the following fcene without knowing 
Oreftes, and this would have haftened the mutual difcovcry>. whick. 
is not made till a long time afterwards. 

The Chorus then having withdrawn, or removed to a greater 
diftance, to leave Oreftes and Pylades at liberty to communicate 
their thoughts to each other, before the one is facrificed, and the. 
other difmifled ; Oreftes, who has no fecret which he conceals 
from his friend, imparts to him the trouble and agitation raifed in 
his mind by the view, the fighs, and the compdfion of this un- 
known prieftefs. Nothing can be more tender and more afFefting, 
than this inftind: of nature, which' rouzes him as from a dream, 
without his being yet able to comprehend what he feels ! At 
length, that admirable conteft of friendftiip between Oreftes and 
Pylades, each of whom would die for the other, raiies to its ut* 
moft heighth, the tender emotion which their preience only hadr 
Ibegun to infpire. Pylades feems to us to yield too fbon to the in- 
treaties of his friend, by whom he is preffed to live, , and to leave 
him to die ; but, if we read over this fcene once more, we fhall' 
find that Pykdcs only feigns to yield. He is not willing to ofiend. 
Oreftes, by oppc^ng him unfeafonably ; and he chuies rather to be 
generous, than to feem fo. In cffed:, he yields only in: appear- 
ance, and ftill depends upon fome happy turn,, which will deliver 
both'him and his friend- from this extremity. Believe mc, fays- 
he, calamities, when they have reached their utmoft heighth, of- 
ten produce the moft furprifing revolutions*. 


In the fourth aft, Iphigenia, as fhe enters, artfully gets rid of 
the Chorus who follow her. She difmiffes them, under the ipe- 
cious pretence of fummoning the priefts to be ready, and to 
make the neceflary preparations ; but, in reality, that fhe may 
with the greater freedom confide to one of the Greeks the letter 
which fhe has in her hand. This fcene is a continuation of the 
two former, which the poet has defignedly cut fhort, and with 
infinite art interrupted, for the fake of variety, and to efcape that 
languiftiment which would have been unavoidable, if the mutual 
difcovcry had been began and completed in one unbroken 
fcene. He has therefore protrafted this difcovery through four 
or five Icenes, part of which belong to the third aft, and part to 
the fourth. The fame artful management may be perceived in 
his Hippolitus, where Phedra begins to reveal her wild paffion in 
one aft, and, after having interrupted herfelf, by veiling her face, 
a(hamed of having faid To much, and trembling left her fecret 
fhould be known ; in the following aft, (he explains herfelf with 
more vehemence, and difcovers the whole fatal mjrftery. This 
Racine could not imitate for vrant of the Chorus ; and in this con- 
iifts the art of thofe beautiful fufpenfions of Euripides, 

Iphigenia, being left alone with the two Greeks, takes proper 
precautions before (he will charge one of them with her meffage. 
She requires an oath. Oreftes, to fecure the life of his friend Py- 
lades, demands one of her likewife. Nothing could have been 
more artfully imagined, to retard and improve the furprize of the 
difcovery. At length fhe reads her letter, that Pylades may be 
able to repeat the contents, if he fhould happen to lofe it by any 
unavoidable accident. When this letter is read, all the emotion 
with which Oreftes is agitated, is admirably exprefTed in a fingle 
word. As for Pylades, he makes the fame impreffion on the mind 
of Iphigenia which fhe had a moment before made on that of her 
brother. He completes the difcovery by the fineft turn imaginable, 
when he fpeaks thefe words, fo full of nature and fimplicity : " Oh 
" with what delight can I difengage myfelf this moment from the 
" oath by v^rhich thou haft fo fortunately bound mc ! Yes, prin- 
-«* cefs, thou fhalt be inftantly obeyed. Oreftes, receive thy fifter's 
^' letter/' There needed no more. 

The following fcene is an agreeable efFeft of the precaution ufed 
hy Euripides in removing the Chorus. The Chorus, after having 



executed the orders of the prieftefs, return, ?iid return in that very 
inftapt,. when Qreftcs, in a tranfcprt of JQv* attepipts to embrace 
his fifter. The ailoai/hnient of Jphigenia/ awi the perplexity of 
the Chorus, who knew not what had pailbd, haften the explana- 
tion of the whole myftcry. But Iphigenia, whofe fituation may 
be better imagined than expreiTed, cannot conceive that O^eftiQuld 
fee again, in Scythia, and. ahnofl under the iacfpd knife, that bro-^ 
ther whom.ilie hrA lamented as dead; At length hcrdr/:am begins 
to be explained,* »re difperied, and fh^ yields to the 
4:onvincing proofs they give her. * The reciprocal joy, the cxiqui- 
xies concerniiig'Glyt;emiieilra,the meafures prppofed to carry off tJie 
flatue, and to efcape from the tyrant, ' the irrelblute dcfigns, ten- 
der folicitudes, fears, hopes, and refources; all are employed, 
and touched with a mafterly hand, till the clofe of the adl, which 
leaves the fpeftator wrapt in pleating expecftation of what will be 
the event of fo many wonderful incidents. 

The fifth adt opens with the arrival of Thoas, for which we are 
already prepared. His meeting with Iphigenia, who has the fta- 
tue in her arms, the perplexity of that princefs, her artifice, the 
feigned expiation, and all that follows, although fine and natural, 
is with difficulty relifhed by our tafte. In the fecond fcene, there is 
a remarkable expreffion of Iphigenia's, who, the better to impofc 
upon the fufpicious Thoas, advifes him to have the two vidtims 
loaded with chains. " Art thou ignorant, fays (he, of the art and 
*' treachery of the Greeks ?" It muft certainly be that Grecian faith 
had paffed into a proverb among the neighbouring nations of Greece, 
and that the Athenians underftood raillery upon this common re- 
proach. After this there is the interefting fpedtacle of the two vidtims 
guarded, and all the apparatus of a facrifice to be performed when 
the expiation is over. We have likewife a fcene of the Chorus, 
fingular enough, on account of a ftroke of raillery upon Apollo, 
^* Jupiter fmiled, pleafed and furprifed at the anxiety of his fon, 
" and at that fecret interefted motive which engaged him to fecure 
** to himfelf the profitable homage of mankind." This muft certainly 
relate to fbme anecdote which we know nothing of at prefent. But, if 
we fuppofe that it was levelled at Apollo, and the rich temple of 
•OdlfiiaS, it '(Keifrs us that the Athenians did not fcruple to rally 
malicioufly upon the enormous wealth of that celebrated temple. 

The recital of Iphigenia's flight, the rage of Thoas, and the 
preparations he makes to purfue them, and, laftly, the appearance 
of Minerva, finifh the unravelling of this piece, in the manner. 

Vol. II. K and 

66 O B S E R V A T I O N S, &c. 

and by the motives we have taken notice of in the beginning of~ 
thefe obfervations. Although this ad is lefs a£Feding^ and has 
more machinery than the others; yet, according to the genius of 
the Greeks^ it is extremely natural. It is even impofiible to help 
remarking throughout this play an air of truth, peculiar to the 
Grecian mle; and which confifts in periuading the fpedator, that 
the event really happened as he fees it reprefented, and that 
it could not happen omerwife« An excellence which we cannot 
afcribe to thegreateft part of our modern tragedies, which, whea 
they fucceed, generally leave us in greater admiration of the poet's 
art, than pleafed by that agreeable impreflion which realizes the 


. *,t.t..* •«.*•> 4 • »■*•.«.•$.•*>*•*•» •♦:.»•. ♦•.♦•#•*.•#• »-«Tt 

A L C E S T I S: 


: :t 1 : ; r t z rtrttti tT^tttt t t ■ t t t t % t t 1 1 

Ks Th« 

i ' 

y '■;. 

1. , 

T&e S U B J E C T. 

^^HE defign of this tragedy is to (hew, that conjugal love, and 
JL a due regard to hofpitality, are never unrewarded. Both 
thefe virtues were held facred among the Greeks, and formed the 
general bafis of their government; astherefpedl of children for their 
parents does among the Chinefe. For the Greeks, as well as the 
Chineie, looked upon the whole ftate as one family ; and believed, 
ihstt as the happinefs of private houies depended in concert upon 
thofe who governed them, and upon mutual offices of friend- 
ship, fo the profperitY of tht whole community, which refulted 
from it, confifted in tne ftrength of that band, which united men 
with each other, hufbands with their wives, a friend with his 
friend, and the whole ftate with itfelf, and with ftrangers. 

Admetus, king of Phene * in ThcOkly, had received Apollo into ^ 
his palace, when he was banifhed from heaven, and received Hercules 
alfo at a time, when he had very ftrong reafons for difbenfing with 
himfelf from exercifing fuch an a£t of hofpitality. We fhall fee how 
this double inftance of benevolence was rewarded* With regard 
to conjugal love, no one certainly cv^r carried it farther than Al- 
ceftis the wife of Admetus ^ and fhewas rewarded for it in a man- 
ner that never had any example. The fubjedfc is fo naturally ex- 
plained in the piece itfelf, thai: It would be ill-judged to fay any 
more of it here : but itis neceffary to take notice of one circum- 
ftance; and that is, a favourite moral of ^tlie Grcdks, which is di- 
redly oppofite to our ideas. The greiat vftlue they fet upon life 
made them conclude, that in the neceility of chufmg, vvnether a 
young perfon, or one advanced in age, ihoidd die ; order and 
good fenfe require, that the latter Ihould die for the former, al- 
though it were the father for the fon. This order was authorized 
by the Gods, and received by mankind in thofe times. This no- 
tion we cannot admit ; but it ih^Ws pkiilly, that even the idea of 
virtue is not wholly exemptfrom alteration. 

We (hall examine this article in the clofe of our obfervations 
upon Alceftis. But, as it is impoffible to become Athenians on a 

f Ebcnn, a province of Theilal7. 

^ ^ fudden> 


fudden^ and to forget we are French, the only precaution I fliall 
require, and which indeed is abfolutely necelTaiy, before this piece 
is read, is to remember, that this polifhed Greece, whofe tafte is 
inconteftible by its beautiful antiquities, was not fo deficient in 
judgment, as to admire what was abfurd and ridiculous. If, there- 
fore, we find ourlelires fhocked with any paflage in this pU^, we 
muft allow that either Euripides (hould have reformed his ideas to 
pleafe us, or that we ihoula change ours to reliih him. 



Pheres, father of Admetus. 
Admetus, kingof Pherx* 
Alc£stis, thewifeof Admetus« 
A Daughter x>f Admetus« 
EuMELUs, the fon of Admetus. 
Chorui of the ancient men of Pherae. 
An Officer belong^gto Admetus. 
A Woman attending upon Alceftis« 
Train of Admetus and Alceftis. 

The SCENE is before the gate of Admetus's palace, intfaedty 

Phers in TheiTaly. 


A L C E a T I S : 


ACT the F I R S T.. 

A P O L L Qi coming out of the Palace*. 

OH palace of Admetusi! the.fceneofmy Ilavery, thoukhow* 
eft that I, although a Deity^ did not blu(h to fee myfelf , 
debaied to a . hireling, ahd to reap the fruit of my toils. . 
♦ So Jupiter decreed. The G^,^rmed. with his thunders, dcftroy- 
ed r my. fon, . my. beloved Efculapius. I, to revenge his death,, la- 
crificed the Cyclops, whofe fatal art had formed thofe bolts which . 
robbed me of my fon* Such was the offence for which I am punifhr 
ed. When I arrived in this country, Lbecame a (hepherd to the fon . 
of Phens : hot in reward of his pie^, I became aUb the tutelar Deity 
of his chafte houie. Already this prince drew near his laft fatal mo- 
ment : I deceived the Deftinies, and had the good fortune to preierve 
him from their inevitable darts. Yes, the Goddefles declared, that 
Afhnetus (hould not fee the fhadowy coafts, provided any other per- 
fon would take his place in the tomo. Such was the impofed condi- 
tion. But alas! the unhappy prince has founded his friends, his 
relations, his aged parents ; none, except his wife, would facri- 
fijce their lives to fave Admetus. And now AkefUs^ the too. faith- 
ful Alceftis, expires in the arms of her hufband ; die fatal moment 

* Nooneis ignonuit of the andent fiible. This abfurdity furnilhed the firft Chriftian 
iianiely» that Jupiter often punifhed the writers with great advantages, when they . 
GM^x I7 majoog . tbem fiibjeft to mprtals. uodcrtpok to rcfiite Pdytheifm. 

• is 

72 A L C E S T I -S. 

is arrived. Already her eyes (hut out the light : a vldlim to her ten- 
dernefs, {he muft pay this fatal tribute to the king of Hell. And| to 
aggravate my forrow, I am conftrained to abandon this loved man- 
fion, that I may not pollute my eyes * with the fight of the dead. 
Ah, the fad decree is irrevokable ! for death approaches. I fee 
that cruel prieftefs of the fhades; fhe comes to feizeher prey. She 
w^ould not delay one moment after the time prefcribed by Deftiny. 



D E A T W. 

What do I fee ? Art thou here, oh Apollo ? What is thy defign, 
by placing thyfelf at the gate of this palace ? Hop'ft thou to ravifh 
from me the tribute due to the Shades ? Art thou not fatisfied 
with having deprived the deftinies of one vidtim ? Why art thou 
armed vv^ith thy bow and arrows ? Would'ft thou defend the 
daughter of Pelias, notwithftanding her promife to devote herfelf 
for her hufband? 


Be not alarmed. I am ^ot ui^uft : . I require nothing unlawful. 


What ufe haft thou then, for thefe arms, if thy intentions are 
equitable ? 


I bear them now as ufuaL 


Is it not rather to aid this family ? ♦ 


I confefs this fanuly is dear to me, and 1 am grieved for the 
unhappy Admetus. 

Then thou intendcft to rob me of this iecond vi<3;im ? 


I have not even robl)ed thee of the firfl:.' 

■ ■ 1 ■■■ m il ■■ 11 ■ IP. - ■■»iii ^ I a mmmmmmimmtmmmmmmm Hi 

* The Pagans believed that they contrail- of the dead. This notion tiiey .probably 
ed a kind of pollution by die fight or touch borrowed from the Jews. 


A I. C E S T I ^. 73 


No ! Why then does Aiimetostive^? 


Thou well knoweft at what price his life has beeft purchafed. 
It is his wife thou comeft for ; fhe voluntarily devoted her&lf to 
fave him. 


Ves i it is Alceftis^ indeed, vrhom I demiind i and t am rd^lved 
to conduft her to the gloomy regions of the d€ad. 

A P O L L O. 

Cooduft her thither, then ; for I ^tr^^ tkeii aft not di((>G^ed 
to gratify my wifhes. 

D E A r w 

What woidd'ft thou have me do I Seiese her huiband alio ? Ddubt 
not of my confent. 

A P O L L b. 
Not this I mean : hut I would have thee feize on * thofe 
whofe age renders them ^t* fbr deaths and yet more unwilling 
10 die. 

I> E A T H. 
I underftand thee. Explain thyfelf farther. I am, like thee, 
a friend to juftice. 

Suffer Alceflis, then, to reach diei^ age. 


No. Then I fhould refign a far more glorious triumph, and 
thou mayll beUeve I am not infeniible to honour. 

A F O L L O. 

Of what importance is it to thee, whethtt thy vwfttm be voung 
or old, fince at prefent thou hafl a right to the facrifice of^but a 
fingle life ? 


It is x>£ mot^importttoee than thoui magin e ft ; the tender age of 
the vidim enhaAee# its value, and the homage paid tb me is 

<■■■■■■■ !■ iimmmammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmtk^ i m i ltl r imK ii T 

* He means Pheres, or hb wife. 


74 A L C E S T I S, 

A P O L L O. 

Let age but plant its furrows in Alccflis' face, and a richer tomb 
fhall then receive her. 


If lucha fchemc, Apollo, were to be admitted, it would prove 
very favourable to the rich. 


What fay'ft thou ? Is not this a ftroke of wifdom, which has 
efcaped thee without knowing it. 

I fay, that wealth would purchase years, and the dehy of 
death, at any price. 

Thou art refolded, then, not to grant me this favour I 


Moft certainly ; furely thou knoweft me not ? 


* Yes, cruel fiend, I know thee ; and I know that thou art am 
objed of liitred to the Gods, andof horror to poor mortals. 

Thou haft ipoke well j, but nothing (halt thou obtain of me. 


Relentlefs as thou art, yet thou wilt be force J to yield. Know*ft 
thou that celebrated, hero *, whom Euriftus {km into Thrace to 
bring away the chariot of Diomede ? He will foon be the gueft of 
Admetus, and vnQ: force thy vi6bim from thee. Not to thee will 
I owe the deliverance of Alceflis, yet thou fhalt yield her, and I 
will ftill be thy enemy. 


Vain threats ! Once more I tell thee, I will grant thee nothing. 
Alceftis Ihall in fpite of thee fee the Stygian fliore. I am going- 

* He mean» Hercules* Eunftas^ king of fed his hories with human flefli. Hercules 

Mycene, in obedience to the orders of Juno, killed him. This W9is the ninth .of his hu^ 

obliged Hercules to undertake the twelve bourst 
fiunous labowrs. Diomede, king- of Thrace, 

A L C E S T I S. 75 

this inftant to haflen the facrifice^ and will begin with this fteel *• 
Thofe whofe hair have been cut^ are from that moment devoted to 
the infernal Gods. 


A crowd of CITIZENS of Pheras, two Perfons of the Chorus 

ipeak for the reft. 

Oh Gods ! what means this melanchoUy filence before the 
palace of Admetus ? 

Is there no one to be found, who will fatisfy our anxious folici- 
tude concerning the queen ? Muft we lamentthe death of Alceftis ? 
Does (he ftill live ? that wife fo worthy to live; that wife whofe 
unexampled affection for her hufband, renders her the object of 
univerfal admiration. 


Do any of vou hear funeral cries in the palace, flriking of 
hands, and iucn lamentations as are ufual when all hope is loft ? 


No ; nor do I fee any of the guards before the gates. Oh Apollo, 
thou who art the tutelary Deity of this houfe, appear, and calm 
this tempeft ! 


Alceftis lives ftill. This filence is a favourable omen :. befides, 
her body is not yet brought out to be depofited in the bofom of the 

* Here we have a fai>erftiti(ms cuftom of to the infernid dmnities. As that of Orcus, 
the andentSy who cut the hair of dying per- for example. Virg^, in relaHng the death 
fi>ns9 as the firft fruits of the facrifice due ofDido^defcribes this ceremony, 8.4. v. 698. 

Nondum illi fiavum Proierpinaverticecrinem 
Abftuleraty Stygioque caput damnaverat Oreo, 
Ergo Iris croceis per ccelum roldda pennis 
Devolat, & iupra caput adftitit : Hunc ego Diti. 
Sacrum jufla fero, tcque illo corpore folvo. 
Sic ait, & dextra crinem fecat ; omncs ^ unus 
Pilapfus calor. 



A L. C B a T I S. 





Ah ! let us not admit this flattering hope : oa what doil thou 
found it ?" 


Would Adimetus, think'ft thou, that tender faithful hufband^ 
wpuldr he. perform. the fupei:al3 o£ a. wife fo p^ffionately beloved^ 
without any pomp or magpi^cwce? 


Itis.c€xfiain, that LCce^ liotia theporchy neither the, bafon of 
luftral water*, nor the offerings of hair -f: I hear, not Aperies of 
the young virgins, nor is there any appearance of a funeral cere- 


Yet' Ais i^ theday appointed -by iht Fates- for AkcfMs to defcent£ 
into her fubterranean dwellings. 


Alas! What fa/ft. thou,? 

TT^OAj kxiow'ft too weU mynwjiijing, 

C H O R U S-, . or tbepnincipaipfrfin of the Chorus. 

The. nusfortunes of jthe. good ought doubtless to, ba felt by thofe 
w4)o rofemble^thcm.. 

But, alas ! ihall we fend (hips to the fdmous oracla of Lycia;}:^, 
or of Jupiter AmmoH'§t? nothiiigican .fafe:A|ceftis. Inexorable 
F^te- ay prpagh^s.; the. Goda. will .natnowi-elieve her,, and we fee 
nppe to whom w.e.caa.addi:ei$ pur prayers to. move them. 

Ah! if the fon of Apollo, if Efculapius were alive, Alceftis 
would foon return from the gloomy realms of night, and from the 
dreadful -gates- ofc3#fttb^ - Efcul ft piuci b e for e Jupite r cnifhcd him 
witLhis bolta, could with new li&^ asimate the tlead 3 bat- he is 
now no more, and with him hope is. loft.^ 

* In the original, which they drawfrem a § Ammon» a fmall Q)ot of ground in the 
famtain made uft of\n njnafl^ng tht dead. de&rt of Barcos. It was celebrated formerly 

t In the original, njohicbjhtf ffreadiifin . for the temple and oracW of Jupiter Am- 
thtdoor. inon» 

X Lycia, a province of Afia^ fo cdled 
from Lycas the foB of Pandion. 

4. All 

A iL e £* s T i d. ff 

All tBat piety, diat love, covld didsaik to our kings, h^ve beeii 
performed. The altars of the Gods reek with the blood of flaugh- 
tered vidims ; but, alas ! oW miferies are not yet relieved. — Ha ! 
a woman, drowned in tears, comes oat of the palace. Oh Gods ! 
She comes to tell us fatal news ; for there am^on' reigns, and 
her tiears are but too juft. 

S C E N E the F O U R T H. 


TeU us, we conpure thee, does Alceftis ftill live.? 


She lives, and yet fhe lives no longer. 


What do'ft thou mean ? 


She ei^Hres; her laft^moment is approaching £aA^ 


Oh Wretched Admetus, what' a wife wilt thou lofe ! 

Unhappy prince, heforefawnot this misfortune I 

There is no hope, then. 

None. Fate is 'tdo' powerful; and all oiir cirfcs are fi-uitleisr^ 

c HO R u s: 

AU is ovtr then, and preparaticSK v^ill be macte' for-htr funeral, 


Every thin;g is already prepared' fbf that fad ceremony: her* 
hulband will Istiry her foon. 


CcMnfort thyfelfwith there£edion> thatAlceftis' death is gIori> 



ous ; that fhe is the moft faithlul wife the fun in his wide courfe 

Well docs flic deferve this praife : never was conjugal afFc£Uon 
carried farther. What can a woman, who adores her huiband, do 
more than facrifice her life for him ? All Pherae is witnefs of Alccf- 
tis' heroic facrifice* But her behaviour in thefe laft fatal moments, 
affords us a new fubjed for admiration* As fbon as flie perceived 
her death dcew near, (he bathed herfelf in the pure waters of a run- 
iiing f^ream. She ordered her richeft garments to be brought *, and 
Aadomed herfelf with graceful elegance. Then flopping before the 
ftatue of Vefb, '^Oh Goddefs ! faid fhe, foon fhall I defcend to the 
<iark fhadcs of death : vel, ere I go, receive my lafl adoration. 
Behold me proflrate at tny feet, and grant my dying prayer. Oh 
Coddefs ! be thou a mother to my orphan children, give to my 
fon a wife whom he can love, and to my daughter a hufband wor- 
thy of her. May their fate be happier than their modier's; may 
they not like her die in the bloom of youth, but fill up the 
meafure of their happy days in their own natal land ! " After 
this fhort prayer, fhe vifited every altar in the palace of Admetus; 
fhe crowned them with flowers, and flrewed leaves of myrtle round 
them. Before each fhe kneeled, and offered up her devotions : 
No tear was feen to fall from her eyes ; no figh efcaped her; her 
beauty is not impaired, though death has laid his icy hand upon 
her. When fhe had finifhed her devotions, fhe returned fuddenly 
to her apartment, and threw herfelf upon her nuptial bed. There 
ihe began to give free courfe to her tears, and thus tenderly com- 
plained: ^' Dear witnefs of my afFedion to a hufband, for whom I 
die this day, liflen to my parting fbrrows ; for oh! fatal as thou 
hafl been, to me, I love thee flill. Yes, it is to thee I owe 
my death. The fear of violating that faith I owe to thee and to 
Admetus, robs me of life. But yet I die contented.; Should'fl 
thou receive another bride, fhe may perhaps be more fortunate ; 
but cannot be more chafle or faithful than AlcefHs. " Here fhe 
ceafed; and bending o er her bed, tenderly kiffed it, while a tor- 
rent of tears flowed from her eyes. After having foothed her 
grief in this manner, fhe at length quitted^that bed of which fhe 
had taken fo pathetic a farewel, and came out of her apartment :- 

f Jo the original, Sii took tbm out of tor adar cojers, 


A L C E S T I S. 79 

but fbon her tcnderncfs recalled her to that foft fcene. Again flic- 
left it> and ag^ returned to contemplate it oncembre, and renew 
her parting ibrrows. Mean time> her children hung on her gar- 
ments in fpeechlefs grief; the dying mother took each of them^ 
b)r turns in her arms^ and lavifhed her laft embraces on them.^ 
The flaves wandered throughout the palace, lamenting the deftin)r 
of their queen. She called them all by their names : (he held 
out her hand to them ; even the meaneft of them fhe condefcend* 
ed to confole, and received their melancholly farewel. Such is thcL 
fad ipedacle which the palace of Admetus now affords. Had he 
died himfelf, he would have loft but one life only : but, in lofing; 
Alceftis, he fuifers more than death, and lives to languish in ua- 
utterable woe. 

Unhappy prince ! he has but too much caufc for griefs 


OppreiTed with agonizing fbrrow, he holds his beloved Alceftis; 
in his arms, and conjures her not to leave him. Alas ! an inward 
fire confumes her, and prej^ upon the principles of life. Already 
her lifelefs hands have loft their ftrength and ufe. She breathes 
with difficulty ; yet ftill would fnatch a few fliort moments from 
rdentlefs death. She defired to be brought hither to view the fua 
once more ;. the fun^ of which flic now muft take an cverlafting 
leave. I will go in, and acquaint the king with your arrival. 
The afFedionyou exprefs for him, and for Alceftis, isfo much, the 
more valuable, as fubjefts are feldom known to be concerned for 
the misfortunes of their fovereigns.. 


Oh great JujMtcr! what will be the event of thefe diftreflcs ? 
To what haft thou doomed our ibvereign ^ — Ha I art thou al^ 
ready returned ? Do'ft thou bring a confirmation of our misfor- 
tunes? Muftwe then cut off our ^votedhair^ andwear. the garb ♦ 


tty. A i;. c ;e ^ T ; & 


Which firm ^ M Interlude. 

Alcefti^* WOMAN, tkc CHORUS. 


Ah, it is paft, my friends ! hope is no more ! Yet ftill we at- 
tempt to move the Gods by prayers and facrifices. Their power 
knows no bounds. It is now, Apollo, that thy afliftance is moft 
«eceffary ; compaflionate the wretched king. Alas, by thee he 
was preferved from death ! Oh fave his other felf ! fave nis Alcef- 
tis, and flay the murdering hand of Pluto ! 


Oh fbn of Pheres ! oh unhappy prince ! a lofs likp this is far 
more dreadful than the l^d end of delperate lovers, who wildly 
ruih on death. Soon (halt thou fee thy wife become the prey of 
the relentlefs tyrant of the fhades — And behold they bring Alceftis 
hither ; her weeping huAand follows her. Mourn, Pherae, mourn 
thy queen ! Ah, th? gates of Pluto's dreary palace are open to re- 
ceive her ! — Alas ! few are the bleflings of the happief^ marriage^ 
compared with its afflictions. Admetus is a ftriking example of 
this truth. Soon will he be deprived of all his foul holds deart 
.and from this fatal moment his days will wear away in anguifh and 



ADMETUSt ALCESTIS^ fupported by her women, the 
C^OI^yS, TK,AIN, the two CHlLDRENof Alceftis. 

ALCESTIS, with a faint voice. 
Oh fun, oh thou bright light of day, ye fleeting clouds ! — 

A D ME T U S. 

Ah^ my Alceftis, the fun which fees us^ fees us innocent ; yet 


A L C E S T I S. tt 

overwhelmed with mifeiy, neither of us have ofFended the Gods, 
and yet thou dfeft. 

A L C E S T I S. 
*0h land, oh palace, oh nuptial bed of lokos, my country t~ 

A D M E T U S. 
Yield not td thy weakncfs, dear Alceftis ; oh, do not, do not 
leave the. Implore the Gods for mercy; they yet can fuccour us. 

•f Already I behold the double oar ; I fee the fatal bark. Al- 
ready the grim ferry-man of the dead calls me with horrid cries : 
vrho ftops thee ? he fays, deicend ; why this delay ? all is pre- 
pared for thy paflage. 

A D M E T U S. 
Cruel voyage ! Gh, my Alceftis, into what a gulph of miferies 
are we fallen ? 

A L C E S T I S. 
Ah Adriietus, they drag me, they drag me to the infernal court. 
Do'ft thou not fee him ; it is Pluto nimfelf, who hovers o'er me— 

he fixes his horrid looks upon me Ah barbarous Deity, what 

would'ft thou have ? Leave me leave me, I conjure thee— Oh 

horror ! into what unknown regions am I entering ! 

* lolcos, a city of Theflaly^in the gulph where he derends Euripides, and his Alceil 
l^fVolo. }a(bn was bom there. tis in particular, againft feme moderns, has 

t Racine^ in his preface to Iplugenia, thus tranllated this beautiful paflage. 

Je vols deja la rame, Ss h barque iatale; 
J'entends le vieux Nocher fur la rive Infernale ; 
Impatient il cri^. On t'attend icl*bas. 
Tout eft pret $ defcends, viens, ne me retarde pas. 

Thcfe terrors expreflfcd by AkeftJs, and treatife onthatfubjcft; and it appears that 

wUch prefent to her imagination Hell open- Euripides, Who was a great iifiitator of Ho. 

«d to receive her, and Charon haftenii^ her mer's defcrtptions, had in his view the fol- 

away, are certainly in the tafte of that lowing one, in the zoth book of the Iliad« 
tfublime which Longinoi de^^iibes in his 

Deep in the difmal regions of the dead, 
Th* infernal monarch rear'd his horrid head, 
" Leap'd ftom his throne, left Neptune's arm fliou'd lay 
His dark dominions open to the day. 
And pour in light on Pluto ^s drear abodes, 
Abhorr*^ by men, and dreadful ev'n to Gods. 


a« A L C E S T I S^. 

A D M E T U S. 

Oh miferable journey to thy friends ; but far more miferable to^ 
thy hu(band» and thy children^ 

A L C E S T I S, [fober women]. 
Lay me upon this bed : my ftrength forlakes me ; pale death, 
has feized mp ; my eyes grow dim; dark clouds have overfhadowed 
them. Oh, my children, my dear children, you have no mother 
now. Yet, long may you enjoy the chearful light of day ! 

A D M E T U S. 

Good heaven ! why, why am I forced to hear thefe words ? 
They tear my heart : a thoufand deaths are not fo cruel ! Oh Al- 
ceftis ! I conjure thee, in the name of the Gods, do not abandon me. 
abandon not thyfelf. Thy Admetus dies, if thou dieft : my life is^ 
in thy hands. Oh, my Alceftis, live, live and. preferve thy 

A L C E S T I S. 

My dear Admetus, I ani dying ; draw near, and liften tb my laft' 
words, which I referve for thee. My aifeaion for a hufband;. 
whom I loved better far than life, brings me this day to the tomb* 
Yes, my dear Admetus, I die for thee. I might have lived, thou 
knoweftit, and have reigned happily. Which of theTheflaliaa: 
princes, on whom I fhould have deigned to fix my choice, but would 
nave given me his hand, to fhare my crown ? But I was not able 
to fupport the grief of living without thee, and to behold thefe 
pledges of our love deprived of fuch a father. I might have hoped 
to enjoy a long and happy life, yet willingly I facrificed it ; and., 
what neither tendernefs nor honour could exadl from thofe whs' 

Save thee being, thy wife alone has done.. Doubtlefs it became: 
ly parents to fave the life of an only fon, at the expence of theirs; 
their age does not permit them to hope ifor another child. I might 
Acn have lived : thou would'ft have accomplifhed thycourfe; nor 
have been reduced to weep a tender wife, and fee thy children at 
thefe early years without a mother. The Gods have otherwife 
decreed for us : I refolved to die for thee,, and I do not repent this 
£u:rifice. But, in reward for fuch a benefit, as life, I require of 
thee a return ef tendernefs not equal (for what caa equal the fa- 
crifice of fife?) but atlcaftfojuft, fo lawful, that thou canft not: 
irefufe to give it. Thy natural re<flitude, and thy love for thefe 
children X fecure the grant.of my requeft • Suffer them not, my dear 


A L C E S T I S. 83 

Admetus^ to know any other maftcr but thyfelf in their paternal 
dwelling: fufier them to preferve that rank in it deftincd for them by 
their birth : give them no envious ftep-mother, who may be 
barbarous enough to treat like ftrangers thefe children who are 
no lefs thine than mine. This is the only favour I implore of 
thee. Who knows not the fordid jealoufy of a fecond wife, and 
what mlicry fhe prepares for the unhappy fruits of a former mar- 
riage? A ierpent rouzed to rage, is far lefs dreadful, and lefsdan- 
ferous. My fon, indeed, has fome refource : nature has given 
im a defender in him whom he calls by the foft name of father, 
and from whom he receives the tender name of fon. But oh, my 
dearefl daughter, what will be thy deftiny ? How wilt thou pafs 
with decency the years of thy virrin ftate ? What fpoufe wilt thy 
father chufc for thee ? Who is there that will not take an inhu- 
man pleafure in wounding thy fame ? For, alas, my child, thy 
mother will not have the confolation to give thee a hufband from 
her hand : (he will not be in a condition to confole thee in the 
pangs of labour, when the prcfencc of a mother is fo foothing. I, alas, 
muft die, and in a few fleeting moments. Ah, death knows no delays ; 
he waits not till the following day, nor to the third of the month *. 
The fatal period is arrived ; yet a moment longer, and I am num- 
bered with the dead. Adieu, Admctus ; adieu, my children ; be 
happy all of you: and thou, my deareft hulband, live, and enjoy 
the glory of having once poflcffed a wife fo faithful, and you, my 
children^ boail that you nad Alceftis for a mother. 


Princefs, difmifsthy fears; we will take upon us to anfwer for 
thy hufband, that he will comply with all thou afkeft. Ah, would 
he not, indeed, be loft to reafon and to gratitude, if he refuied to 
grant fuch juft demands ? 

A D M E T U S. 
Yes, my deareft Alceftis, thou (halt be obeyed ; rely upon the 
love I bear thee : thou wertmy wife whilft thou lived, thou (halt 
continue to be fo even after thy death. No other Theflalian vir* 

* Alceflis, when (he fays, that death will day of the month : or it is probable, by this 

not wait till the third day of the month, paflage of Euripides, that merciful ere di- 

aUudeSy I believe, to a cuftom among the tors gave their debtors a delay of one or 

Greeks, who paid their debts on the firlt two days, whic^h death does not. 

M2 gin 


gin (hall call mehufband, however diftinguifhed for her birth and 
beauty. Thefc dear pledges which thou leaveft me, fhall pofleft 
all my heart. Oh preferve them to me> ye gracious Gods, if I 
muft lofe their mother. Think not, my dear Alceftis, that a year 
fhall be the period of my mourning and my grief : no, my mourn- 
ing ftiall laft as long as my life ; as long as my love for thee ; as long 
as my hatred for parents, whofe fruitjefe tendernefs confined itfelf ta 
bare profeffions only. It is thou, my Alceftis, thou alone, who- 
for my fake was lavifh of the dear eft blefling, and faved my Kfe 
by facrificing thy own. But oh,, will not my life thuspurchafed, be 
condemned to ceafelefs groape ? It fhall ; for I renounce- all joy for 
ever; nevermore willl ihare the fecial feajft, or join the gay aflcm- 
bly; never more (hall this palace refound with (bngs and mufic; no 
more (liall thefe fingers fly over the lyre, and extract thofe 
melting airs, which once had power to charm mei no more (hall 
my voice join the foft Lydian flute : all the delights of life will pe- 
rt(h with thee. Yet I will not lofe thee all, ray dear Alceftis^ 
my ingenious love will find out new methods to keep thee prefent 
to my eyes. The artift's hand (ball be employed to form thy dear 
refemblance for me*. I will prefs the lovely image in my arms 5^ 
I will place it on my couch>. fall at its feet, and call it my dea?- 
Alceftis, and believe I fee thee ftill, (Hll fpeak to thee, and enjoy 
thy loved fociety. Ah ! weak confolation> poor refource for love 
or grief like mine ! yet to this, my forrow- oft will fly : at leaft> 
thy (hade wilt blefs my eyes in dreams.-!— .Oh, my Alceftis, hadl 
the magic power of (bnglike Oj})heus.!- could I like him charm the 
relentlefs daughter of Ceres,, aiid her inexorable lord, and. bring; 
thee back from the dread (hores of Cocytus ! thither, like him, 5 
wonld defcend: nor the tremendous Cferberus, nor th^ ftefn fcyrry** 
man of the dead, (hould- force me to return, unlefs thou wert 
permitted to revifit earth again. Ah, fruitlefe wiihes 1 by death 
only can I gain a pa(ragc to thofe gloomy (hades. I come, myr 
4ear Alceftis ; I follow tkee; preparq the manfion whem thou and 
I muft dwell eternally: thy tomb (h^ hold .mcalfo;. dying it- (hall 
be my command to place me there ^ death itfclf (hall- not have 
power to feparate two hearts, whirh furh ^ p^ffion b?$ nnit^di 


Prince,we (hare thy griefs, as well through our: friend(hip for thee,, 
as our veneration for. Alceftis. 

* This is the original of that kind of idolatry of which Solomon fpeaks. 


A L C E S T I S. 85 

ALCESTISi ttk btr ebiUren. 
My deareft dhdldren. Ictus be comforted; yoahave heard your 
father fwcar an eternal faith to me : he renounces for ever a fecond 

A D M E T U S. 

Yes, fuch was my pfomifci I now repeat it, and never will I 
violate it. 

A L C E S T I S, 

On this condition^ then, receive thefe children from my hands 1 
to thee I truil them. 

A D M E T U S. 
I receive them as a precious gift from a moft dear hand. 

A L e E S T I S. 
Take n^ place^ then^ and be a mother as well as father to 

A D M E T U S. 

Oh fatal necefllty \ wJiich conftrains me to it, fince they lofe 


Alas, my childreo ! X would live iojtfoyXy hut. I muA die, and 
leave you^ 

A p M E T U S: 

What will become, of me when I have loft thee ? 

Time will zS\fz^ tiiy grief: the dead are nothing to the living.. 

A D M E T U S,. in Uars. 
Oh, my dear Alceftis, take me with thee ; I conjure thee by 
the Gods ; oh take me with thee to the fhades ! 

It iff fufficicnt, my dear Admetus, that I die, and die for thee^ 

A D M E T U S. 

Yebarbaarow. DeftinioB^ of what a treafure do you deprive me t. 

Ah ! my heavy eye-lids fall ; a thick mift involves my fight. 

A D M E T U S; 
Oh dreadful founds! — ^Wiltthou^ then, abandon me, Alceftis? 



A L C E S T I S. 

I am no more ; look upon me as if I had never been. 

A D M E T U S. 

Alceftis, my dear Alceftisl — raife thy eyes, leave not thy chil- 

Unwillingly I leave them. Well, thcni Ifet- them receive my 
laft embraces. 

A D M E T U S. 
Oh, turn thine eyes towards thenji-^-Iook on them once more, 
my dear Alceitis. — Alas ! 


Ah, J die i it is done. 


A D M E T U S. 

Oh, my unkind Alceftis, wilt thou, wilt thou abandon us ? 

ALCETIS, expiring. 

AD ME tlJ$, veiling iis face. 
There death has ftruck me alfo. 


She is dead. Admetus no longer has a wife. 



about the body of Alceftis. 

E U M E L U S, her fon. 
Oh mifery! my mother is defcended to the (hades. She no 
longer enjoys the light of day : I have no mother now. Ah, look 
my father, look at thefe eyes, covered with the dark (hades of 
death : look at thefe motionlefs hands. Oh my deareft mother, 
hear me ; I conjure thee, hear me. It is I ; it is thy fon that 
-calls thee, that pre(res thy cold lips. 


In vain thou calFft her. She no longer hears thy voice r (he 




ices thee not. Ah, my dear children, how cruel is this flrokc to 
all of us ! 

E U M E L U S, 

And has (he then left me ; left me at thefe early years ! Oh my 
father ! Oh miferable wretch, to be deprived of fuch a mother h 
Oh my lifter ! this lofs is thine, alas : but chiefly thou, my 
deareft father, art to be pitied ; thou who haft not been allowed 
to reach with her to a happy old age! Oh mother! thy wretch- 
ed family dies with thee. 


Fatal necefBty 1 Admetus, thou muft fupport this fad reverfe of 
fortune. Thou art not the firft whom death has deprived of an 
amiable and tender wife r thou wilt not be the laft. Alas ! art 
thou ignorant that we are but born to die ? 

I know it but too well. This ftroke was not unexpc<Sted, and; 
was therefore more feverely felt. —But now thefe dear remains muft 
be removed, and receive the laft pious duties from me. Affift me, 
friends,, and iing, alternatively funeral ibngs in honour of the re* 
lentlefs king of hell. Let the Theftalians,. my fubjedts, join with 
me in performing thefe juft rites. As their king, I command uni- 
verfal mourning ; let them cut off their hair, and put on fable ha- 
bits. Prepare the chariots, and cut off the flowing manes of all 
the horfes. It is my command alfo, that the foft founds of the 
l)rre and flute be heard no more throughout the city, till the moon^ 
has twelve times filled her orb. Alas, never again can I perform the 
ebiequies ofa-perfon {o dear, fo precious tame. What honours, 
are not due from me to a wife, who had the courage and genero- 
fity to take my place in the grave I 


Which ferves for the Interlude. 

The body of Alceftis is carried away to be adorned.; Admetus, his 
children, and the whole court, foUaw it, while the Chorus re^-. 
main to fing the funeral fongs. 


Gh, daughter of Pelias, who now dwells in Pliito^s gloomy ^-ntoPHfc^. 
falace>. receive our laft fareweL Know, thou fierce tyrant of the. 

Shades j^ 




Strophe II. 


Shades, and thou, grim pUot of the dead, who, feated at the 
helm,divideft the black waves of Styx, know, that a brighter virtne 
than Alceftis never paflcd the bitter ftream of Acheron ! 

For thee, Alceftis, the poets (hall invoke their mufe. Thy 
praifes fliall be celebrated in hymns fung to the harmonious lyre *. 
Thy wondrous love fhall be the fubjed: of every poet's fong : but 
chiefly in the fpring, during the folemn feftivals f which Athens 
and Sparta celebrate in honour of Apollo. - Thy glorious facrificc 
fliall crown thee with immortal fame. 

Oh that I could redeem thee from the dark manfions of the in- 
fernal king, and make thee pafs again the black Cocytus ! Thou 
whofe matchlefs tenderncfs for a huAand has faved his life by fa- 
crificing thine own, light lye the earth upon thy gentle bofom : — 
and oh, let no fears of thy Admetus* faith difturb thy peaceful 
ihade ; if it were pofllble that he could violate the vow he made 
thee, and abandon himfelf to the charms of a fecond marriage, to 
us and to thy children he would beoome an objedt of everlaftin^ 

Strange love of life in thofe who gave liim hirth I of life fo 
fliort as theirs, white hairs can promife them ! neither would die 
to fave him, though threatned with approaching death ; a death 
inglorious and unlamented : but thou, Alceftis, in the bloom of 
youth, died for thy hufband. Oh, may the Gods beftow on me 
a wife whofe tendernefs and fidelity may equal thine ; but happier 
in her fate, may (he with me fulfil the meafure of her days ! Alas, 
this blefling Heaven only grants to a few favoured 'mortals. 

A. C T thfi THIRD. 


H E R C 

Ye inhabitants of Pherse, fay. 

U L E S. 

is Admetus in the palace .^ 

* In the original, nuith fe^ven firings, and 
made of a tree -ivhich grotvs upon the mountains. 

fTh 3 feftivals here mentioned by the Cho- 
i-us were games and mufical contefts> which 
were celebrated at Athens and Sparta on the 
fcventh of April, and lafted nine days, when 


the moon was in its full. ^ The(e poetical 
contefts being inftitntcd in honour ^Apol- 
lo, they were called Carneades, from Car« 
nus, a ^mous poet and mufician, the foR of 
Jupiter and Eurepa, and a favourite cf 



G H O R U S. 
Thou wilt find him there, great Hercules. But deign, I pf ay 
thee, to fatisfy our curiofity ; on what defign doil thou come to 
Theflaly, and to this city in particular ? 

I am come in obedience to the commands of EuryfUieus. 

To what new wanderings has he condemned thee ? 

I am going to cany off the fteeds of Diomede *. 


How wilt thou be able to execute this enterprize ? Art thou ac^- 
qudnted with any perfons in that country ? 

* No j I never was in the land of the fiiftonians -f*. 


Doft thou know, that the carrying off thefe horfes will coft thee 
a bloody combat ? 

Yes J but how can I dude my orders ? 

C H O R US. 
Thou muft kill Diomede, or perifh. 

True ; but this will not be the firft trial of my valour. 


But what wilt thou gain by this vt^ry ? 


The fteeds, which I am to carry toEuryftheus. 


There is ftill another obftade to thy fuccefs. How wUt thoU 
curb their fury:): ^ 

Is it true what report fays, that they breathe fire and flames ? 

^ 1 II • ' ■ I I I I I I ■ I • I I I -It Mil I ' 

* In the Greek, l^rfTbrac*. f Btftonia, acouatrjr iaThnoe^ between the rirer 
Nefius and Hebnu. t In Greek, ty tit rtim. 


9<^. 4t fc C E S T r 5^ 

Th«y arc fo fierce, that they tear men to pieces ♦. 


Wild beads do fo; but men are not the prey of horfes. 


Believe thine eyes, then. Thou wilt fee their den reeking with 
human gore. 

From whom is he defcended who feeds them thus ? 


Mars is his father : his kingdom is that part of Thrace which 
takes its name from the hollow bucklers in ufe there> and which 
is* known to be £b fruitful in gold. 


It is well ; this is an enterprize worthy of Hercules : fevere, but 
glorious deftiny 1 which ftill ordains, that I muft combat with the 
fons of Mars. Lycaon firft^ diea Cycnus^ and Diomede is the 
third who offers himfelf to my arm. I muil fight with him» and 
with his fteeds : it matters not; the fon of Aicmena ihallncve)!: 
be feen to tremble at the £ght of riie moft dreadful enemy. 

C H O R U $• 

Behold Admetus himfelf. 

S C E N E the S E C O t^ D. 

To them ADMETUS- , 


Oh hero, defcended from Jupiter and Perfeus f , may'ftthou 
be ever happy ! 

H E R C U t E 5. 
Receive from me the fiune kind wifhcs, powerful king of the 

ADMETUS, Jighing: 
Oh that the Gods would g?-ant tjiem ! bull receive them as the 
efFeds of an undpubted fries^ihip. ' 


* In Greefc» wUb y^fffi^itrnk-^ and Alceu$ of Amphimom the bos^nd of 

t Perfeus and Danoe were the children of Akmeoib who kad HeU^ktf by Jupiter. : 
Uipttcr. Ptrfeits was the father of Alceusy 



A L C E S T I S*^ gt 

Bat &.y, Admetus > why fhefe marks of mourmng, this fliorn, 
hair !— 


This hair I was preparing to cany to the tomb of — 

Whofe tomb? Oh Heaven! is one of thy children dead ? The 
Gods preferve thee from fufiering fuch a lofs ! 

A D M E T U S. 
Thank$ to the Gods> my children are alive. 

It is then a father thou mournefl for. [Ah« his great age gives me 
fcut too juft a cauie for fear — 

A D M E T U 8, 
Difiaaifs that fear : my parents are ftill alive. 

How ! haft thou then lofd Alceflis thy wife ? 

A D M E T U S. 

^ Of her I may fay two very oppofite diings. 


Lives fhe, or not.' . 

A D M E T U S. 
She is alive, and yet fhe is not : it is her fate that makes me 

Still I cjuuiot ccMttprehcnd thee : unfi^d this enigma, I befeeck 

A D M E T U S. 

•Art thou ignorant of the defliny that awaits her F 

Jt E R C U L E 8. 

I know (he has engaged herielf to die for thee. 

A D M E T U 8. 
Bound by dus^tal promife, can I reckon her among the living^ 


Ah, da not aatkmate grief : too foon wih diou lament her. 


94 A L c E s r 1 S. 

A D M E T U S. 

Alceftis is dead : for thofe wha arc ibon to dtCf I look Uponb as 
dead already. 

Yet ftill there, ia fome difference between the dead and thofe that 

A D M E T U S. 
Thou art of this opinion, Hercules ; but I have reafons for thihkr 
ing otherv^rife. 

Why doft thou keep me ia fufpence^ then ?. What friend k it 
whom thou lamented ? 

A D M E T U S. 
I mourn the death of a woman— -We have all this time, been* 
peaking of another. 

Was fhc whofe lofs thou weepeft a ftranger, or allied to thy fa-- 
mily ? ^ 

A D M E T U S. 
She was both, 

H E R e U L E S. 

How ! both ! If a ftranger, whence did it happen, that flic 
paifed her life in thy palace^ 

A D M E T U S. 
Being confided to my care after the dbath- of her father, fhe was^ 
bied up there; 


I take part in thy afflidlion, Admetus ; but in the fituation thou, 
now art, I would not importune thee with my prelence^ 

What dofl thou mean P , 

I will feek another abode. 

No j I cannot fuffcr thee to depart Add not this to my other 

The vifit of a ftranger is unfeafcnable iaa.houfe of mourning. 


A L- C E S T I s; 9j 

A D M E T U S. 
Let us think no more of the dead^ but deign to^ enter my 

Confider, Admetus, how improper it would be for mc to^ be thy 
gueft, when all thy family is in tears. 

A I> M E T U S. > 
Thou ihalt be conduced to a diilant apartment in the paTac^ 
which I referve for flrangers. 


Permit me to leave thee,. Admctus : my obhgations to theft 
wiff not be lefTened. 

A D RT E T U S- 

No, Hercules > Phave already told thee, thou art not at liberty to 
be the gueft of any other. [To bis attendants J] Open the moft retired' 
apartments : tell the flaves to prepare a fumptuous feaft. [To tbe- 
guards.] Do yon {hut the ve/libule in the middle; it is not fit that: 
cries and tears fhould difturb the pleafures of a feaft. We ought 
to fpare the gueft whom we receive^ the mclanchoUy preparations^ 
for a funeral. [Berctdes goes into Admetus^ palace. \ 


A D M E T U S,. the CHORUS. 


Why would'ft thou, prince; finking as thou art under a load' 
of afilidHon, receive a ftrangcr in thy houie ^ 

A D ME T U S. 

What could I do ? Had I fhut the gates of my palace and my 
city upon a friend, would you have prailed me for it ? No, certain-- 
ly^ my griefs wouldmot have been lefs fenfibly felt, and my guilt 
would have been greater. I fhould have violated the laws of hof- 
pitality^ which I have ever refpedted : laws fo exaiftly obferved by 
this friend,, when I went into the banren region of the Argives ;. 
and to the miferies I fufier already, I ibould have added the eternal 
infamy of rendering my houfe odious to ftrangers. 


But if Hercules be fo fincerely thy friend, why dbft thou con- 
ceal thy afflidion. from him ? 


n A L c K $. T I s, 

A D M E T U S. 

I know this hero wcU. If he had entertained the leaft fafpicion 
of thofc misfortunes I groan under now, lie would not have 
honoured me with his prcfeace. He will Uame me too for what 
I have done : but though he fhould call me imprudent, though he 
fhould load me with reproaches, my pure ^nd unftained hoi^fe fhall 
ilill refpeft the facred laws of hofpitality ; it never knew the guik' 
of turning the fteps of ftrangers from it, • [He goes out.] 


the' CHORUS. 

Strophe!. Oh palace of Admetus, oh worthy abode of Gods ! no won*: 
der thsit Apollo deigned* to refide within thy hofpitable walls, and 
blufhed not to become the (hcpherd of thy numerous flocks, nor 
to fill thy hollow valleys, and the fouling meads around thee, with; 
the harmonious mufic of his^ rural lyre! 

AKTisTao- Then were the fierce lynx's &cn to feed vrith lambs. The liorts 
quitted the hills of Theflaly to liften to thy lays. Diviqe fnufi- 
cian ! around thee fkipped young fawns, who in crowds defertea the 
^orefts, drawn by the ibft melody of thy fongs. 

StrofheII. Happy Admetus ! the favourite of a God! it is to Apollo that 
thou owefl; a fheepfold fo fruitful and fo fair, hefide the lake of 
Bebie *, and that my felds extend towards' the ^eft, cren within 
view of the Mploflesj while on the eaft, thy empire feems to know 
no other bounds ^aii mount PeKon,- and meEgean Tea; 

Antistro- With thee, Admetus, how ftcrod are the laws of hofpitality ! 

PHE 11. Xhou haft juft loft a lovely and belpved vnScp and while thou 
weepeft her early £itei a ftxapger comefi. Then, geperoua 
prince, thy forrow Was confined to thy own bofom ; thy fighs were 
all fuppreft ; thv tears, which flowed in fpJlQ of thee» by painful 
force with-hela ; and to thy gueft thyho^itablc gate^were open 
inftantly. Such is the conduft a generous mind fuggefts. Every gift 

* A lake between Phene and Magnefia, mklaken, the Chorum mean, that Admetus 

from which the neighbouring plains take might beh6td all this tndt of land, and fa 

the name of Beboide. The following |>aA ieem to command it, accordii^ to that 

ikge b peq)kzed. The Chonis do not mean ipri^^tty Koe of Benienide. 

•that the empire of Admetus extends on one Et;fi tout n*0 d «utr» tout eft anus r^erdt^ 

fide to the Moloffes, which are at the extre- To be convinced, we need orily examine the 

mity of Epirus, nor that on the ot)ier (ide^ mpp; 
'it reaches to mount Pelion ; but if 1 am not 


A L ^ E S T t #. 9j 

of wifdom is united in a heart where candor and benevolence bears 
fway. Thy piety, Admctusv doubt it not> ihall meet its Juft re- 


A D M E T U S. 
My loved friends, whofe prefence aflfords my afflidled heart ib 
foft a confolation, Alceftis will in a few moments be carried to the 
funeral pile, and from thence to the tomb; do you attend the 
melancholy ]MX)ceffion, pzy her the laft duties, and let your la- 
mentations fhew your ancdlion for your queen, who leaves her 
palace never more to enter it again. 

Prince, I fee thy aged father flowly approaching. He comes 
to attend theproceflion, and his fervants bring gifts and ornaments 
for AlccAis' tomb. 

SCENE the sixth/ 

The prpcejfion is feen. 

P HE R E S enters,, followed by fervants bearing prefents for 

Alceftis' tomb. 

P H E R E S. 
My fbn, I fhare in thy affli<aion. Thy lofs, it is true, is great: Seethe obfcr- 
Alceftis deferved tH;f^^ndereft afFedUon ; but y^u cruel as this lofs vations upoa 
is, thou muft fuppart it patiently. Receive thefe rich veftments ^^^ ^^^°*^' 
from my hand to grace her tomb : a wife who facrificed herfelf for 
thee cannot be too highly honoured. It is to Alceftis that I owe 
the happinefs of preferving my fon : fhe would not fufFer a wretch- 
ed father to waftc his age in mourning. Oh, thou deliverer of both 
the ion and father ! who, by this heroic deed, haft propofed a 
glorious example to thy fex. Oh, thou who haft refigned the l^ht 
of day, ever amiable Alceftis, receive my laft farewcl ! May 
thy. gentle ftiade enjoy repofe in Pluto's dark dominions! may 
many wives like thee be found, and may the torch of Hymen be 
kindled for love and faith like thine, or quenched be the flame for 

5 A D M E- 

96 A L C E S T 1 S- 

A D M E T U-«. 
I did not Invite thee, Pheres, to thefe funerals ; and that I may 
not yield to thee in any things know, that thy prefence here is 
now unwelcome toine. Carryback thefe i^eftments ; theyihall not 
be fpread upon Alceftis* corps. Her tomb (hall not be enriched with 
gifts from thee. Thou fa weft me at the point of death? then wa« 
thy time to weep; but then what didft thou do ? Do tears become 
thee now ? thou who refufed'ft to fhield me from the threatened 
danger : thou who, though bending under the weight ofyears,couldft 
fliun a neceffary death, and fufFer the young and blooming Alceftis to 
facrifice her life for me. Away, I am not thy fon ; I do not ac- 
knowledge thee for my father. She who calls herfelf my mother, 
never bore me ; I am the oiFspring of fome flave, and by miftake 
hung on her breaft. The danger that - threatened my life too 
plainly (hews me what thou art : yes, I repeat it, I no longer 
know thee for my father; or if indeed thou art fo, thou muft be 
the weakcft and moft cowardly of men, fince having almoft run 
thy deftined courfe, thou hadft neither tendernefs nor fortitude 
enough to die for a fon, and didft not blufti to let a ftranger perform 
that duty. . Yes> that ftranger only has a right to be coniidered as 
my real parent. To thee it would have been glorious to fave a 
child : and what would'ft thou have facrificed, but a few years 
embittered with age and infirmity ? By this poor facrifice thou 
wouM'ft have purchafed many long and happy years for her and 
for thy fon, and he would not have groaned under miferies un* 
utterable. Thou haft already enjoyed a happy deftdny : feated in 
early youth upon the throne, in me thou haft had a lawful heir, 
who freed thee from the fears of feeing thy dominions become the 
prey of greedy ftrangers. Nor canft thou Cay, that in revenge of 
the contempt thy age endured from me, thou gaveft me to the 
tomb; what tendernefs, what duly, what refped: have I not ever 
paid thee ? But now provide thee other heirs, if it be pofiiblet 
who may fupport thy feeble age, and perform thy funeral rites. 
As for me, I hold myfelf diicharged from this laftduty: look on 
me as dead ; it is not to thy tendernefs I owe my life ; life was 
the gift of another benefador ; to this new parent my tender- 
Bcis, my duty, all is due. How infincere are old men's prayers 
for dcatti ! they murmur at their long protrafted date j but when 
death comes, then they want fortitude to die, and age fecms no 
longer a burden infupportable. ' 




This Is too mucfai, prince ; thou art already mifcrable enough, 
without adding to thy misfortunes the rage ot an offended father. 

P H E R E S. 
To whom doft thou dire£b this haughty language, fon ? Dofl 
thou imagine thou art talking to fome Lydian flave ? Haft thou 
forgot, that I am born free, at leaft, and a Theffalian ? Yet haft 
thou dared to offer me the moft inhuman outrage, and to treat 
me like the bafeft of mankind : but never ftiall it be iaid, that a 
young man infulted his father with impunity. I have given thee 
birth ; I have educated thee, to be the fupport of my throne : but 
know, that I am not therefore bound to facrifice my h£e for thee. 
When did the laws of nature, or of Greece^ impoie on fathers the 
necefSty of dying for their children? AU here below live for them- 
felves, happy or miferable it matters not. I have performed my 
obligations to thee ; I owe thce^iothing now. I have made thee 
a king ; and at my death I leave thee mofe large dominions which 
I received from my iWefathers. What injury, then, doft thou 
complain of ? Wherein am I guilty ? I did not die for thee, is that 
my crime ? Well, do I reqiare thee to die for me ? If life be dear 
to ^e, think'ft thou it is not dear Ukewife to me ? I know that 
our abode in Pluto's dreary kingdom will be long, and that this 
life is bounded by narrow limits : but, fhort as it is, I am willing 
to enjoy its blcffings. Thefe fentiments, no doubt, will not be 
approved by thee. Thou accufeft mc of cowardice; and yet, 
coward as tnou art thyfelf, thou wcrt not aftiamed to prolong thy 
days beyond the ftated term, by facrificing thy wife. Inferior to 
a woman in gcnerofity and fortitude, fhe was obliged to fpare thy 
weaknefs the horrors of approaching death. What a happy ftra- 
tagem, ftill to dude the ratal ftroke^ to perfvade a wife that it is 
her duty to die for her huft>and ! After this, it becomes thee welU 
indeed, to call thofe perfons bafe and cowardly who refufe to do 
for thee what thou baft not cfxurage to do for diyfdf. Take my 
counfel; be filent ; judge by thine own heart of others. Thou art 
fond of life; take it for granted, that others love it as well as thee. 
And now be affured, if thou repeateft thy injurious reproaches, 
thou fhalt hear more painful truths than thefe. 


This is too much on both fides. Ceafe, reverend Pheres, to 
wound thy fon with thefe reproaches. 

Vol. II. O ADME- 

9$ A L C E S T I S. 

A D M E T U S, to Pberes. 
Speak, I have faid all ; but if the truth feems harfli to thee, thou 
oughteft not to have incurred it by fuch a crime. 

P H E R E S. 

The crime would have been much greater if I had devoted 
myfelf to death for thee. 

A D M E T U S. 

Is there no difference, then, in thy opinion, between dying in 
the bloom of youth, or burdened with old age ? 

P H E R E S. 
No mortal, whether young or old, has two lives, which he 
can diipofe of as he pleafes. 

A D M E T U S. 
Well, may'ft thou live longer than Jupiter ! 

P H E R E S. 
How 1 Dareft thou load a guiltlefs father with horrible impre- 
cations ! _ ., « 

A D M E T U S. 

No i I on the contrary fubfcribe to thy own wifhes. Do'ft 
thou not defir e a long train of years ? 

P H E R E S. 
This is thy wifh rather, and this corps too plainly proves it. 

A D M E T U S. 
This corps proclaims thy bafenefs. 

P H E R E S. 
At Icaft, it cannot proclaim that I ^rificcd this vidim for 

'"^** ADMETUS. 

Ah, that thou in thy turn needed the facrificc of a fon's life to 

iave thee. 

P H E R E S. 

Do thou aa wifer, and takeone wife after another to multiply 

thy years. 

To thy fhame, thy infamy, be it remembered* that a wife 
did what thou oughteft to have done. p H E R E S 


P H E R E S. 

Thou and I think alike, that life is fweet, and death dreadful, 

A D M E T U S. 

Thefe fentiments arc unworthy of old age. 

P H E R E S. 

It feems then, that to merit thy approbation, I muft give thee 
the barbarous pleafure of canying me to the tomb. 

A D M E T U S. 
Yet thither thou muft go ; but without fame or honour. 

P H E R E S. 
Of what advantage to my afhes is this fancied honour ? 

A D M E T U S. 
Alas ! old age has banifhed (haxne. 

P H E R E S. 

Old age is wife, bpt folly is the portion of inconfiderate youth, 
witnefs Alceftis' facrifice. 

A D M E T U S. 
Retire, and leave me at liberty to finifh her funeral rites. 

P H E R E S. 
It is juft, indeed, that he whofe victim (he was fhould pay her 
the laft duties — I leave thee, then ^ farewel: but, mark me, fon, 
this facrifice will be revenged ; and Acaftus, Alcdtis' brother, wiU 
be the moil contemptible of mankind, if he doth not revenge on 
thee the death of a loved Men 

A D M E T U S; 

Go, thou and thy unworthv wife, and wear away a miferable 
old age, childlefs, even thougn I live. This punifhment thybafe 
defertion of me merits: from this moment I will have nothing in 
common with thee, not even a dwelling. Oh that I could with 
decency prohibit thy entrance into this palace, I would do it pu- 
blicly, and without a blufh ! 

But now, my friends, fince we muft complete our mifery, let us 
carry thefe dear remains of my Alceftis to the funeral pile. 


Take with thee our tears and fighs, our everfafting forrow, for 

O 2 thy 

loo A L C E S T I 8. 

thy lofs. Oh beft and faithfulleft of women^ may the infernal 
Deities, Mercury and Pluto, receive thee favourably ! and if in- 
deed there are in the other world rewards and bleflings refcrved for 
the juft, may*ft thou enjoy them all, and in the palace of Profer- 
pine reap the fruits of fucn exalted virtue. 

[Tie hoiy (f Alceftis is carried off the ftage^ Admetus and the 
Chorus follow iV.] 

A C T the F O U R T R 
S C E N E the FIRST. 

An OFFICER of the palace. 

The palace of Admetus has indeed received a great number of 
guefts from different countries, and the care of their entertainment 
has always been confided to me.; but one more unfeeling than the 
ftranger whom I have been ordered to attend to-day never entered 
thcfe hofpitable gates. The wretch beheld my fovereign in tears, 
yet icrup4ed not to become his gueft : he knows the amidion we 
labour under, and, inftead of behaving with decency and modera- 
tion at table, he indulges his luxurious appetite with excefs. Nay 
more, he takes in his hand a cup wreamed with ivy, and pours 
whole ftreams of wine upon the noor ; he drinks long draughts* 
May the raging flame of Bacchus furround and choak him. He 
crowns his head with myrtle, and makes the palace refound with 
his fongs. Ah, what unfeafbnable mirth ! He fings on one fide of 
the palace, without troubling himfelf about the wretched Adme- 
tus, and we on the other lament the fad fate of our queen. Doubly 
unhappy ! fince we are forced to reftrain our grief, and devour our 
tears in the prefence of this ftranger : for fuch were the commands 
of Admetus. Wretch that I am, I am obliged to /hare the feaft of 
a gueft, who is furely fbme miferable robber, while my queen is car- 
ried out of thepalace, never more to enter it again ; and I am deprived 
4 of 

A L C E S T I S. 101 

cfthcmclanchoUyconfolatk^ of taking my laft leave of her, ofpre- 
fenting my hand* to her, who Was to me, and to everyone here, rather 
a mother than a fovereign. Alas ! how often has (he faved us from 
punifliment, when with gentle arts die foftcned the rage of our 
offended king ! Ah ! how can we think of this, and not deteft thi^ 
ftranger, for hi$ unfeafonablevifit! 




Come hither, friend, and tell me what is the meaning of thefe 
frowns, ihis cold and forbidding air, which thou affumeft ? Art 
thou ignorant, that a ftranger, inftead of beholding fadnefs and 
difguA in the countenances of thofc who have the care of his en- 
tertainment, fhould'be received with chearful finiles, and affiduity ; 
yet thou, at the fight of thy king'^ moft valued friend, armeft thy 
looks with gloomy forrow, and wholly intent upon a misfortune 
in which thou art not concerned, behaveft as if I was an enemy. 
Draw near, then, and learn of me a wifer condudl. Doft 
thou know the nature and condition of human life ? Alas, 
no ; in a fituation like thine, how fhouldft thou have acquired this 
knowledge? Liften to my words then. All mortals are to death 
devoted, nw is who knows to-day whether he fliall fee 
again the light to-morrow. Such As our deftiny. The period of 
our life is fo uncertain, that no art, no Science, can point it out 
to us exa£Uy« And now^ iince thou art inflnidtod in this great 
principle, refign thyfelf to joy ; tafte the delights of wine, and 
ihare the focial feaft. Remember, that the prefent moment only 
is thine own, and all the reft^are fortune's. As for the caufe of 
thy forrow, baniih all remembrance of it; and if my counfels feem 

* This was an ancient cuflem. Tkey of the lirft a^ : S^^ called them mil hy their 

prefented thdr hands to the deceafed, in imms ; (her dares) fie fr^/Mgd her bemd t§ 

•fi^ 0f their gnef for fe ■ UA^ feparati o n . ^Abwi, il(C. 
As AlcelKs, ibr exainpie,fai thefourrii fccne 


I02 A L C E S T I S. 

wife to thee (as I am well perfuaded they are) gather the fruits 
of them. Refume thy fpirits^ then^and from this moment de-- 
livered from the burden of thy grief, drink with me, crown thy 
head with flowers, and be aflured, that amidfl the tempeft whicn 
now agitates thy heart, the pleafing clafhing of drinking-cups, 
crowned with the gifts of Bacchus, will bring thee fafely into 
port. As we are mortals *, we ought to form fuch notions as beft 
fuit our mortal ftate : for whoever abandons himfelf to forrow 
cannot be faid to live, but to languifh in real mifery« 


All this I know ; but the fubj edl that at prefent employs my 
thoughts agrees but ill with pleafures and the joys of wine- 


The perfon whofe death thou regreteft is a ftranger. Why then 
this excefs of grief? Are not the owners of this palace alive and 


Alive! Oh Heaven ! Art thou ignorant, then, of our misfor- 
tune ? 


Not, if Admetus has fpoke truly. 


Alas, unhappy prince ! he does too much for ftrangers. 

H E R C U L E S. 
No, he does only what he ought, by paying the laft duties to 
the deceafed, although a ftranger. 


A ftranger ! Ah, the perfon we lament was but too near to us* 


How ! has he fuiFered, then, any domeftic lofs, which he con- 
ceals from me ? 

OP F.I C E R. 

It is enough ; I am,filent. Go, and deliver thyfelf up to joy; 
it is for us to deplore the misfortunes of our fovereign. 

♦ A pernicious moral this, and worthy here was not becaufe it was approved, bat 
the feft of Epicurians. Its being io&rted that Euripides might not be diiguifed. 

H E R- 

A L C E S T I S. 103 


Oh Gods ! thefe words denote a domeftic mourning. 


Were it not fo, (hould I have appeared thus oppreft with grief 
in my attendance at thy feaft ? 


Ah, my friend has injured me by this referve j I cannot pardon 
him for it. 


Alas, did not thefe funeral garments, this hair cut offi inform 
thee, rfiatthouhadft furprifed us at a moft unhappy time ? 

Say then, which of the family of Admetus is dead ? His father, 
or one of his children ? 

Since thou wilt oblige me to declare it, know, then, that it is 
his wife, 

H E R C U L e;s. 
His wife ! oh Heaven ! And how in this melancholly fituation 
couldft thou have the leaft regard to hofpitality? 

Admetus would not violate its facred laws in the perfon of fuch 
a friend as thee. 


Oh, my unhappy friend, what a treafure haft thou loft ! 

We all perifh with her, 

Alas, I fufpeded this by his dgedled air, his mourning, his 
tears, which he endeavoured to rcftrain 5 but he removed my fuf- 
picions by his ambiguous anfwers. He infinuatcd, that he was 
performing the funeral rites of a ftranger, and, contrary to my 
inclination, forced me to enter his palace. And here have I, 
wretch that I am, given a loofe to fcftal joy, and crowned my head 
with flowers, in the houfe of a friend opprefled with grief: but it 

104 A L C E S T I S- 

is thou who wert the caufe of this. Why didft thou not reveal the 
fatal fecret to me? Where is the tomb ? Speak, what road muft 
I take to lead me to it P 


Th^ road ta Larifla. As foon- as thou art out of the fuburbs, 
thou wilt immediately fee the tomb. 

Enough. Farewd. 

S C E N ]£ the THIRD. 

HERCULES alone. 

It is now, Hercules, that thou muft fhew to the whole uni« 
verie what a fon Akmena has given to thefovereign of the Gods. 
Thou haft accompliftied many hard and dangerous tafks, and gra- 
titude to Admetus now exacts one of thy valour. Alceftis muft 
be forced out of the arms of death, and reftored to her huiband. 
Let us go, then, in fearch of this haughty king of (hadows. 
Doubtlefs he will be near the tomb, adorned in his funeral veft- 
ments', fatiating himfelf with the blood of victims. Let us then 
lie concealed near the tomb, and when he leaft expe<5ts fuch an 
afTault, let us fuddenly fall upon him. If I am fo fortunate as to 
come upon him by furprize, and fei^se him in thefe arms, not all 
his ftruggling fhall free him from the potent gripe, fill he has re- 
leafed Alceftis. But what if this fcheme fails ? what if the relent- 
lefs power ftiould not come to the tomb^ to tafte the funeral cake 
fprinkled with blood ? Why, then, I will feek him even in hell: 
I will defcend alive to the gloomy palace of Proferpine and Pluto : 
I will demand Alceftis ; fecure that my requeft will be granted by 
the fovcreigns of the fhades, I will bring her back to earth, 
and reftore her to her faithful hufbaild. What do I not owe to 
fuch a friend, who, though labouring under fo fevere a ftroke of 
fate, concealed the anguiiGb of his heart, received me as a welcome 
gueft, and paid me all the dues of friendftiip. Is there in Thefla- 
ly, or in all Greece, a more noble, a more generous friend than 
my Admetus, or one who more religioufly obfervcs the facred 
laws of hofpitality ? No, it never fhall be faid, that fuch a benefit 
was repaid with ingratitude, or that Admetus was more generous 
than Heresies. 


A L C E S T 1 S(^ 



ADMETUS and the CHORUS returning from the funeral. 

A D M E T U S. 

Oh palace> where I iball no more behold AlcefHs, how can I 
view thee, how return without her ! f^tal return to me ! Alas ! 
to what part of it (hall I retire ? where ihall I i^op, what fhall I fay, 
ordo^ now ihe is gone ?—- ?0h, who will end tms miferable life ? 
AlaSt I was bom to be an example to the univerfeof wretchednefs 
unequalled. How happy are the dead { how do I envy the defti- 
ny of thofe who inhabit the peaceful tpnib ! Oh, thou dark man- 
fion, my afHidted heart would fain repofe itfelf in thee ! thou wilt 
for^lhe future be the only objed of my ardent prayers. The light 
of day grows infupportable. Oh, I nm weary with ftruggling 
here with human weaknefies. Death, relentlefs death, wHat a 
loved hoilage haft thou delivered for ine tq the king of hell ! 

Retire, prince, retire | conceal thy foffows in the obfcurity of the 

A P M E T U g. 

Thou groaned : alas ! thou haft too juft caufe to groan. 


C H O R U 5. 

Alas,, too well we know the excefs of thy affliftion. 



Thefe tears, thefe cries, this anguifh, will not reed Alcefti$ 
from the tomb. 

Oh Heaven I Ohmiierable Adn^usl 


Doubtlefs, *tis hard to lofe one fo tenierly fedoved ; but how 
could it be avoided ? 

Vol. IL P A D M E- 

io6 A L C E 8 T I S. 

A D M E T U S. 

Ah, you but irritate the deadly wound that fellers at m^ 
heart. What ftroke could fate have given more cruel to a hap- 
py hufbandy than to lofe a tender and beloved wife! Oh, that 
without entering into this foft engagement, I could have lived with 
her like a brother in this palace ! Thofe only are bleft for whom 
Hymen never lighted the nuptial torch, who know not marriage, 
and the thoufand woes attending it. Alas, I weep the lofs of a 
loved wife ; and to complete my wretchednefs, I muft behold my 
children miferable likewife in the lofs of their mother. Oh, 
fpeftacle infupportable to a father and a huftand ! Ala&, it was 
once in my choice to have been neither. 


It is true, inevitable deftiny has ftruck this blow. 

ADM E T US. : 



But will thy Ibrrows know no period ? 

A D M E T U S. 
Oh I 


It is dreadful, yet — 

A D M E T U S. 
Oh I 


Thou muft endeavour to fupport this lofs with fortitude. Thou 
art not the firft— 

A D M E T U S. 
Wretched Admetus t 


Thou art not the firft prince who hath loft the objedl of his 
tendemefs. Fortune afflidis us differently, but none are (pared. j 


Oh, tendemefs for ever buried in the tomb f Oh grief eternal! 
endlefs wailing ! — * Cruel as you are, why did you give me your 


A L C E S T I S. 107 

unwelcome fuccours to rob me of the pleafure of interring myfelf 
aiive with my Alceftis ? But for you, I fhould now have been with 
her; with her, the deareft, and thebeft of wives. I (houldhave 
pafTed the infernal waves with her, and Pluto would have had two 
victims : Pluto, relehtleft as he is, would not have divided two 
hearts by love fo dofely and ib tenderly united. 


Yet hear us, prince, hear an example of equal woe. A man 
to whom wq were related had a fon, the only hope of his family : 
This unhappy fon was taken from him by death. He deferved to be 
lamented : the lofs was irreparable, and the father in extreme old 
age ; yet he bore this misfortune patiently, and refufed not to be 

A D M E T US. 

Oh that palace ! that nuptial apartment ! ho^y can I return 
there ! my fortune is changed, and they are changed to me. Oh 
Gods, wnat a cruel difitrence between my prefent ftate and my 
paft happinefs ! Ah, my memory brings back the time when I en- 
tered that delightful abode, leading my lovely Alceftis amidft the 
joyful acclamations of my fubjefts, and the found of varipus inftru- 
ments, preceded by the blaze of tapers*, and followed by a 
crowd of guefts, who fung glad hymns in honour of the happy 
day. In thefe charming concerts, the names of lover, of hufoand, 
and of bride, were a thoufand times repeated. They extolled the 
happinefs of her whom I now lanient ; they extolled my happi- 
nefs. Bleft and illuftrious pair, they cried— Ah, funeral cries fucceed 
thefe fongs of joy. Long fable veils have taken the place of thofe 
white veftments with which the God of marriage then adorned 
me ; and now, inftead of hymeneal pomp, grief, tears, and defpair, 
attend me to that melancholy palace where my Alceftis is fctn 
no more. 


It is true, prince, miferies which till now thou never kneweft 
fucceed thy former happinefs ; fo Fate decrees : but flill thou 
liveft, Alceftis dies, and leaves thee all her tendernefs. Such is 
the ufual train of human events. How many hufbands are there 
whom inexorable death has reduced like thee to lonelinefs and 

• In the Greek, maiie of wood cutufon Mount Ptlion^ This was a wood which had a 
^eat quantity of rofin in it. 

P 2 A D M E^ 

io8 A L C E S T f S. 

A D M E T U S. 

Ah> my 6ekr friehds^ Alceftis' fate is h^ppict far than miae: 
ctertial fadtie waits on her Aade, forrow can never reach her oKH-e; 
ihe is now free from all thofc miferies which are pknted round 
us* While the unfortunate Adlnetus^ forced to furviye, will drag 
a life more infupportibk thail death itiel£ I fed already diebor^ 
den is too painful — Ah, how fhall I fupport the fight of thefe fad 
walls ! Alceftis is not there, to ftiake ftiy entrance pleafing ; I can- 
not fpeak 16 het; 1 trahnot hear htt voice. On which iide^ihall I 
turn my reftlcft' eveS ? Alas, they every where will meet a 
frightful foKtudc--Ah, whattortul*tO a fond lover, to fee around 
mt Aofc couches, thofe feats, where tmce 1 faw her, and where I 
ftfever more fliaH fee her ! This Funeral pomp, that obfcure apart- 
ment, the mournful appearance of tny palace, all will inceflantly 
bring back her dear idea. But Mrhat will be niy anguifh, when my 
.p<!)or thildt%n, dro^Hrned ih ^liir tears, {ball hang upon my knees, 
and conjure me to peftore their mother to thefti ; when I fliall hear 
this groans and cisafelefs lamentations of the flaves f Oh, ye Gods, 
will they ofken cry> of what a fovereign haft thou deprived us I 
Thefe, thefe are the torments this palace has prepared for me. 
-Shall I ^it it to be preffent at Theflaliati nuptials ? Ah, thofe 
Tn)iling aJemblies of youthful btides and bridegrooms, will foe to 
me a fource of Ae i^oft poignant grief. How fhall I be able to 
behold that fair ciftle of my Alceftis* loVed companions! This fight 
will redouble my grief and my delpair. Oh, what will not the 
malice of my eneitiies invent ! Methinks I already hear them fay 
'to each other, ** 5ee that ingterious prince, that unworthy huf- 
/• band, is he not alhamed to live ? fte who feared death fo much, 
*• that to avoid it he facrificed his wife. After this bafe adion, 
" let him boaft a noble mind. His parents are odious to him, be- 
«* caufe they refufed to die for him, and he had not courage to die 
« himfelf/* Ah Gods I this is the laft ftroke that you referve 
for me How then, my friends, how can I wifti to live, de- 
prived ofJionour^ deprived of my Alceftis I 



A L C E S T I S. ro9 

Or the I N T E R L U D E. 

The CHORUS, ADMETUS abjorbed in grief . 

The C H O R U S. 

Above the vulgar raifed, often have I confulted the learned StrofhiI. 
fifters- 1 have examined their profound myfteries ; and for the 
fruits of this vain ftudy, I have found tnat nothing is more 
powerful than deftiny. Vainly would "we feek in the Thracian 
writings, didated by the foul-moving Orpheus, a prefervative 
againft the ftrokes of fate. Vainly would we feek it in thofe re- 
medies for the various ills of human kind which Phoebus left to 
the difciples of Efculapius, 

Deftiny is a fevere divinity, to whofe temple there is no accefs. Antistro- ^ 
He Is not to be moved by prayers, nor by the blood of viiftims. '"* ' 
Ah cruel, ah inexorable God f be not more harfh to me than thou 
haft hitherto been. It is by thee, that the fovereign of the Gods 
executes his immutable degrees. Refiftlcfs in thy force *, iron 
itfelf yields to thy ftxoke. Thy heart is always ihut to tender- 
nefs and pity« 

Itistnis terrible divinity, oh Admetus, who has ieized thee Stropbb llr 
in his powerful hands : yet lofe not thy fortitude in the painful 
conflid ; for all thy cries and tears will not bring back to earth 
the inhabitants of tne ftiades. Even the offspring of the Gods arc 
fubjeA to die Aroke of (ieath. She whom thou lamenteft was 
dear, and ever will be dear to us. A woman of fuch exalted vir- 
tue is even more relpedlable than the offspring of the Gods. 

Ah, think not that Alceftis' tombfhaJl be undiftinguifhed from Antutro-, 
the vulgar dead. Travellers ftiall pay divine honours to her fhade; «•"£ ii. 
diey ftiall turn afide fitom their road, and with awful reverence view 
her tomb. " This, fliall they fay, this was the generous, the 
** faithful wife, who for her hufband devoted heifelf to death. 
** She is now a Goddefs. Oh, amiable Divinity, be favourable to 
♦* us — *• Ha! the fon of Alcmena, he advances towards thee, 

^ In the Greek, WUcb U hrwghtjrm tbt CMyies, 4t ficfie of Pfntut. 


jio A L C E S T I S, 


In one S C E N E. 

HERCULES, a WOMAN veiled, the CHORUS, 


H E R C U L E S. 

Admctus, thou art not ignorant what the laws of friend- 
(hlp require of a friend in afflidlion : he, inftead of concealing 
his forrows, ought to fharc them with a faithful friend. Her- 
cules, who came hither at a time of mourning, merited at leaft 
thy confidence ; but thou didft not judge him worthy of it. Not 
fatisfied with concealing from him the death of thy wife, thou haft 
conftrained me to accept thy offers, and, in fpitc of my reluftance, 
led me into thy palace, as if the perfon wno lay dead in it had 
been a ftranger, and not of confequence enougn to prevent thy 
receiving a gueft. Mean time, I crowned my head with myrtle ; 
I poured the accuftomed libations ; I refigned myfelf to mirth and 
pleafure in a houfe of mourning. Thou muft acknowledge, prince, 
that I have reafon to complain of thee. I will not, however, in- 
creafe thy afflidlioh by reproaches, but acquaint thee with the 
real caufe of my returning hither. 

Thou feeft this woman, prince ; I come to confide her to thy 
care; and from thy friendfhip I expeft that thou wilt keep her in 
thy palace, till after having fubdued the king of the Biftonians, and 
taken poflefllon of his fteeds, I return in triumph to thee. If I 
fliould perifh in this dangerous enterprize (but may the Gods 
avert the omen, and grant me an happy return) I yield her to 
thee. She is a conqueft which has coft me fome labour. 
Happening to be at certain games, where very confiderable 
prizes (as thou may'ft judge by that I am poffefled of) were pro- 
pofed to the combatants, I entered the lifts. Several noble fteeds 
were to be the prize of the meaner combats; but for thofe of 
wreftling and the chariot-race, great numbers were decreed. And 
befides thefe rich prizes, this woman alfo was to be beftowedupon 
the conqueror. I fawher : a prize of fuch importance was not to be 
negledled. And now, prince, I again repeat my requeft, that thou 
wilt take care of her, and receive her from my hand as a precious 
i:onqueft, not of a raviflier but of a champion crowned. 


It was not through any unjuft contempt for a friend, that I 


ALCESTlsr. irr 

concealed from thee, great Hercules, the death of my wife, but 
only becaufe it would have increafed my afflidlion, to fee another 
perfbn rob me of the glory of receiving thee as a gueft. I wa& 
already too miferable in the lofs of my Alceftis, without fufFelring^ 
this new misfortune. But oh, Hercules, I conjure thee, urge thy 
requeft with regard to this woman no farther- Leave this pledge 
with a friend lefs miferable than Admetus : Pherse will afford theer 
many. Oh, by the Gods, I implore thee, do not reduce me to the 
cruel neceffity of inceflantly recalling to remembrance the irrepar- 
able lofs I have fuflained* How fhould I be able to reftrain my 
tears, having this fair one continually in my view. Ah, I am 
wretched enough already ! I need not diis aggravation of my woes. 
Where, oh my friend, where fhall I bring up without danger this 
young beauty, (for fuch fhe appears to be by her air and drefs). 
Can fhe dwell with decency amongfl a number of turbulent young 
men ? Thou knowefl how difficult it is to reflraia the fiery paf— 
fions of youth. It is the interefl of my friend that obliges me to 
fpeak thus freely. Would'fl thou have me keep her retired in the 
apartment of that dear one whom I lament ? An, how can I offer 
her my Alceflis' bed ? Have I not reafon to fear the cenfures of my 
fiibjedis, fome of whom will not fail to fay, that I have betra)red 
my benefaftrefs, and given my heart to another. Might not the 
loved fhade of her who died for me, juftty reproach me for my 
infidelity ? For oh, my friend, I acknowledge it, Alceflls^ only 
merits ^1 my love and veneration* In this miferable flate to which 
I am reduced, is not referve and caution neceffary ? * But thou, 
lady, whoever thou art, the more I look upon thee, the more I 
confider thy perfon, thy air, thy gait, the greater refemblance 
thou fcemefl to bear to my beloved Alceflis— Oh Hercules, I con- 
jure thee by the Gods, take from my eyes an object which affed:s 
me thus. Spare, oh fbare my bleeding heart this trial. Alas ! 
the more I look upon her the more I am perfuaded it is Alceflis 
whom I view. My foul is flrangely moved; tears in fpite of me 
flream from my eyes — Alas, wretched as I am, it is now that I 
feel all the horror o£ my fate. 


It mufl be acknowledged, that thy fate is very unhappy : but 
mortals ought to receive with fortitude whatever comes from the. 
hand of heaven. 

• Here he turns his eyes upon this woman, whom he had before but flightly viewed. 


Ill A L C E S T I S. 

Oh, that the father of Gods and men would communicate to me 
his power, foon would my grateful hand deliver Alceftis from the 
ihades ! 

A D M E T U S. 
Yes, thou would'ft reftore her to me ; I know thou would'ft. 
But why fhould we form thefe fruitlefs wifhes ? Such power is not 
to be attained by mortals. Ah, thofe who have once paiTed thofe 
difmal fhores never revifit earth again. 


Do not, then, carry thy grief to excefs ; and learn to bear with 
patience inevitable misfortunes 

A D M E T U S. 

Alas, it is eafier to recommend patience to the afHi(5ted than 
to bear afflidion. 

But of what ufe are thefe ceafclefs tears and fighs ? 

A t) M E T U S. 

Of none; but my tendcrnefs for my Alceftis is fuperior to 

Tendemefs for the dead produces nothing but tears. 

A D M E T U S. 

How is it polSble not to mourn for the irreparable lofs I have 
fufFered ? no words can defcribe it. 

Thoii haft loft an amiable wife : this muft be acknowledged. 

A D M E T U S. 

So perfe^l^ that I cannot live fince I am deprived of her. 


Thy wound is ftill recent : time Will heal it. 

A D M E T U S. 

Yes, time will heal it; if by time thou meaneft the period of 
my days. 

4 HER- 


A L C E S T I S, iij 

H E R C U L E S, 

Another bride will — 

A D M E T U $• 
Oh hold, Hercules, what words have efcapcd thee ! Alas, could 
I have believed that a friend-*-* 

What, always faithful to thy ibrrow for Alceftis' lofs, will tbj' 
heart be — 

A D M E T U S. 
So infenfible to the power of love, that there is not a woman in 
the world who could hope to fucceed my Alceftis. ' 

HE R C U L E S. 
But dofl thou imagine^ that Alceftis* afhes are afiefted by thi» 
cxccfs of conftancy ? 

Iknow Aot that; but I owe them this reipedl:* 

I applaud thy ientiments : but I cannot help condemning Ay 

A D M E T U S. 
Whether thou condemned or blameft me, yet this thou may 'ft 
be alTured of^ that I wiH never again refume the name of hufband. 

1 muft repeat it, I admire thefe generous fentiments : they arc 
the effeiSi: of an cxceflive tendernefs for AlceiKs. 

A D M E T U S. 
Dead as flie is, for ever loft to me, vet would I rather die a 
thoufand deaths, than violate the faith I nave vowed to her. 

But, at leaft:, thou may'ft receive this fair one in thy houfe : I 
beg it of thee, friend ; her birth merits this inftance of reipeft. 

A D M E T U S. 
Oh, Hercules, I conjure thee by thy immortal father, urge not 
this fequcft. 

Thou knoweft not thy real intereft, if thou refufcft to grant it. 

Vql.IL Q_ ADME- 

m A L C E S T r 9» 

A D M E T U S. 
If I comply^ I plunge a dagger in my ovm breaiV. 

Takemy couf^! } thou wilt one day thank me for it. 

A D id E T U S 

Alas, thou fbrceft me to deteft thy viftory. 


And yet it is thine as wdl as mine. 

A D M E T U S. 

So I would have it : but let this woman then retiiwv 


Alas, Admettu, fhe fliall, if diou doftinfift npon it j hut I be- 
seech thee^ coniider what thou doft. 

A I> M E T U S. 

I cannot alter my relblutionft unlefs thou threaten'^ me with the 
lofs of thy fncndflup.. 

Afliire thy&lf^ that I hasK good rtafoas for preffing thee upon 
lius fiibjed. • 

A D M E T U S. 
Well, iince it muft be ib» thou fhalt be obeyed; but yet I do* 
not 3^d. I am conArained to fatisfy thee. 

The time will come when thou wilt thank me for it : onljr 
gratify my wifljcs now.. 

A D M E T U S. 

Well, fince thou wilt have it 6>, £>me of you lead her into the 
■ palace. [To bis aitendants.} 

No, it is not t& them that I will confide a perfba of hec rank. 

AD M E T U S. 
Condeilcend then,, I intreat thee, to conduA.her thither thyieU^ 


A L C E S T I S* 11^ 


N0> Admetus, this o£Sce belongs to thee ; offer her thy hand 

A D M E T U S, 

How> I i mufti do this ? Ah no, Hercules; my palace is open 
to her, but j^are this ceremony. 

Admetu^ it is to thy care I truft her; therefore I infift npoA 
thy leading her into the palace. 

A D M E T U S. 

Ah, what is it thou obligeft me to do ? 

Obey, Admetus, and pay this ftranget the accoftomed hcMiours. 

A D M E T U S. 

I will then, fince I cannot aroid it: but oh, Hercules, all 
Women but Akeftis are Medufas to my eyes. 


Wilt thou obey me ? 

A D M E T U S. 



It is well; keep her then as thy w^. Thou ihalt find that the 
fon of Jupiter knows how to be grateful. [He lifts u^ her veil.] 
fiehold Alceftis, and difmifs thy grie& for ever. 

A D M E T U S. 

Oh Gods, what do J fee! Oh, amazing jprodigy ! Is it then Al- 
i:eilis whom I behold ? or is it not an illuuoa raifed by ibme ma-> 
levolent Deity, tp fill me with deceitful joy ? 

No, Admetus, no; it is Akeftis, it is thy wife whom thou be- 

A D M E T U S. 
Ah, is it not a (hade come from death's dark regions/ 


Admetos, I would not deceive thee. 

Q^a A D M E- 

ii6 A L C E S T I & 

A D M E T U S. 

Can it be poffible ! that I behold my AlccfKs, my wife, ftieto 
whom a few moments ago I paid the laft fad honours ! 


It is Alceftis : doiibt no more. I am not furprifed that thy 
happinefs fliotdd appear incredible to thee. 

A I> M E r IT S. 
Oh, it is not afhade; it is Alceftis whom I t?ouch. Then* I may 
ipeak to her,, friend, if flie really lives. 

H E R C U L E S. 
She lives. Speak to her. 

A D M E T U S. 
Oh, thoirdear objedl of my tcndereft wiflies ! Oh. my A:lceftis, 
have I recovered thee, at the time I never hoped to fee thee morel 


It is certain, that thou now poffcflcft her i thou art not dcceivei 
by any envious deity. 

A D M E T U S. 

Ohilluftrious fon of Jupiter, may thy felicity equal my ardent 
wiQies ! Oh, may the great deity who gave thee life, preferve it 
to thee long ! To thee I owe the ineftimable blcffing of having; 
my Alceftis reftored to me. But, tell me, friend, how thou at- 
fempted^ft to bring back 'Alceftis from the fhades, and in what 
manner thou didft fucceed ? 

It has coft me a combat with the tyrant of the dead.. 

Where didft thou meet the unrelenting king T 


At the tomb, where I concealed* myfelf; and fu4denly ipringingr 
on him, feized him in my arms. 

A D M E T U S. 

Bat why is Alceftis motionlefs and dumb ? - 

H E R C U L E S. 

Having bcea devoted to tha infernal deities^ Hie muft be* puri^ 


A L C E S T r S. 117 

fied ; nor canft thou enjoy her converfation till the third rifing 
morn. Go^ prince, kad Alcellis into thy palace, and ftill conti- 
jdue, as thou haft hitherto been, a moft religious obferver of the 
laws of hofpitality. Farewel ; I go to accomplifli the commands 
of the ion of Stenelus. 

A D M E T U S. 
Ah, Hercules, deprive me not of thy prefence fo foon, and 
deign to make this palace thy abode for fome time longer. 


On another occafion- 1 will, but now time prefles* Adieu, Ad- 

A D M E T U S. 

Adieu, moft generous Hercules. Oh, may fuccefs in this new 
cnterprize reftore thee foon to my wifties ! — Hear me, my people, 
and ye governors, hear the orders of your king : It is my will,, 
that there be a general rejoicing' for the unexpe(5ted bleflings this 
day has given me; ht feafts be celebrated; let the altars ftream 
with the blood of viftims, and lead up public dances, in honour 
of the Gods. Thus bleft above my former happinefs, it is juft that 
I fliould exprcfs my gratitude to Heaven • 


By what extraordinary means do the Gods accomplifli their 
defigns ! It is by their fecret power, that the great events which 
Aey decree feem to unfold memfelves contrary to the expecta- 
tion of wondering mortals. Such is the prodigy we have fean to-* 
day, the fubjedt of our aftonifhment and joy - 





WE may reduce to three or four heads all that raiies dillike 
in the play of Alceflis : thefe we muft endeavour to exa- 
mine to the bottom ; for as to the general air of plainnefs difFufed 
through all this piece^ as well as through feveral others, and through 
Homer himfelf, we fhall pafs this over in filence. The Greek 
limplicity had not yet attained that elevation of thought which 
is fupplied by the magnificence of Rome or France. Rome, with 
all her haughtinefs, could hardly attain the nice and natural tafte 
of Athens : and tlie ancient Greek ftrudture, with all the fimpli- 
city of the firft ages, is fHll far preferable to the if^ndor and aig-- 
nity of the Roman ones. The Athenian ideas \vcre raifed as high 
as members of a common-wealth could be fuppofed to raife them : 
they painted the nature of thofe times in its true form. We will 
therefore not mention as faulty^ the coarienefs that may be found 
in the perfons of Euripides* We might as well charge the fame 
fault upon the mafterly portraits of Vandyke. We may fay with 
truth, that by labouring to dignify nature, we have taken from 
her that bloom which made all her ornament in the golden age : 
this bloom, which can fcarcely be expreft, refembles that of fruits ; 
and as fruits newly gathered in their maturity have fbniething 
more pleafing than when their tafte is heightened by art, to pleale 
appetites too delicate, fo nature, new from the hand of its author, 
and copied in its firft ftate, has infinitely more grace than when 
we lay on paint to make it fine. In its firft ftate, it is like the 
treat of Philemon and Baucis. Corrupted in its fecond, it is the 
banquet of Trimalcion; or of the pampered Romans of Horace 
and Juvenal. 

We will not infift upon another thing, which is the confequence 

of vrhzt has been already mentioned, a little tindk of familiarity 

which may be obferved in thefe fcenes, and which, in our eye, 

has more of comic airinefs than tragic dignity. The Chorus 

7 round 


round the gate of the palaceir to know what was pafling, the con- 
verfation of the Chorus with the confidant, fome fcenes of Hercu- 
les, particularly his converfation with the officer, that is, with the 
Have, who was employed to feaft him, have made fome critics 
imagine, that this piece was a tragi- comedy ; a wildnefs ofde- 
fign unknown to the ancients, as others have well obferved. This 
piece is of the iame caft with other ancient tragedies^ and painted 
in the fame manner. A deiire of exhibiting to the ibedators na- 
ture as it really is, though ibmewhat embellifhed, has now and 
then led the ancients to an eafy manner^ which we are pleafed ta 
call comic ; becaufe we judge of their tragedies by our own. The 
tranfition from fimplicily to negligence, and from eafy to comic 
language, being imperceptible and ihort, it is no wonder, that by 
a falie prepofleffion, one is often taken for the other ; particular- 
ly in an age where we value ourfelves upon judging of every thing 
without appeal* Thus the fame anfwer will ferve here as to the 
former obje£tion» Tragedy, confidered as it is in itfelf, has no* 
thing in itfelf contrary to the natural reprefentations of manners> 
timesy and places. It would be cafy to produce more than one in- 
ftance of our beft poets, where, by the help of a flight perveriioa 
of the imagination^ an affected motion^ or tone of voice, that which 
is natural or beautiful would be changed to parody and bwrlefque. 
Let us come, then, to efTential and critical points. 

And firfk. The whole dty of Pherae knew that Alceflis had de- 
TOted her&lf to fave her hufband : even Hercules, who was not 
&ere, knew it ; and was doubtlefs informed of it before his arri^ 
iral. For he looked upon the death of Alceflis to be far off (A£t 
the Fourth^ Scene the Second.) It had been long therefore a 

£ublic report. Every one knew that Alceflis was to die for her 
ufband ; but the determined day was not kndwn. Admetus 
therefore could not certainly be ignorant of this voluntary facrifice. 
Well, but ought he not to have oppofedit ? I anfvver, that itwa& 
not in his power to prevent it : and this is evident from thefe two 
circumflances. For firil; being faved by Apollo, who had de* 
ceived the Deftinies (Ad the firft,. Scene the firfl:) he was not at 
liberty to die ; and hence it happened, that he was forced to feek 
another vt£tim, in obedience to the God^, whofe kind office became 
fatal to him ; for his relations refufed the condition. There re- 
mained only Alceflis :. ffie devoted herfelf ; the Deflinies accepted 
her ; and tnere was no longer a poffibility of recanting. What 
could Admetus do ? Life was forced upon him y and this hefhews 



fufficiently in the beginning of that fine fcene where Aiceftis takes 
leave of him and her children (A<ft the fecond, Scene the firft, 
&c.) Admetus therefore has no other refource but his tears, his 
prayers, and his grief, and to thefe he abandons himfelf. But why 
it will be aiked, did not the poet in his prologue prevent this ob- 
jedion, by more fully explaining the fubjedl ? He in reality fays 
enough for the Greeks, who knew the fable, and whounderftood hjm 
by half a word: enough even for thofe who will condelcend to be 
attentive to it, but too little for pofterity, which has loft the traces 
of fabulous antiquity, and which is too ready to condemn what- 
ever is with difficulty reconciled to prefent ufagcs and ideas. The 
words of Apollo, (Ad: the firft. Scene the firft) thofe of death 
(Adt the firft, Scene the fecond) and the grief of Admetus, who 
complains that he cannot die with his wife, is doubtleis fufficicnt 
for perfons who have not reiWved to condemn Euripides without 
hearing him. Yet it muft be acknowledged, that if Admetus had 
been ignorant of the name of his deliverer, this would have pro-, 
duced a fine fituation, when he found that this deliverer was his 
wife. I have been informed, by a great princeis, whofc tafte is 
equal to her illuftrious birth, that Racine * had formed the plan of 
tfin Alceftis upon this circuniftance, and had refolved to adopt all 
the beauties of Euripides, and even to improve upon them by this 
happy furprize. 

Secondly, they alfo exclaim againft the indecency of a fon*s 
feeming to require his parents to die in his ftead. How horrible 
to hear him reproach them for not devoting themfelves to death to 
fave him ! And, laftJy, what bafenefs^ what malice, to call it no 
worfe, in the father s anfwers, who charges him likewife with fel- 
fiftinefs arid cowardice ! Imputations which deftroy the chara<5ter 
the poet gives him. This pafTes in the fixth fcene of the third 
aft. And this is the objedtion in all its force. 

Let us begin our defence, with laying down a rule which ought 
to be admitted by all perfons of fcnfe and judgment. If there arc 
things in this fcene fliocking to the reafon of any age whatever j^ fo 
fenfible and polite a people as the Greeks would not have approved 
them. But, if tlie Greeks found nothing to condemn in thofe 
paffages which appear indecent and horrible to us, it follows, 
that they are not altogether fuch as we imagine them to be : in a 
word, their ideas in this refpeft were not the fame as ours are 
«^i»— ^— — — — ■— i I II I III — ii^— II— —— ill————— —.———— .1^^ 

* This is fiippofed in the opera of Alceftis. 

6 now 

f I. C E S T I S* izi 

now : and can it be imagined^^ that they have not in different 
ages undergone as great a change in ftill more eflential articles of 
morality ? * With us, if a gentleman is affronted, it is expedled 
that he fliould hazard the confequences of a duel ; and, to fecure his 
l^onour, he muft either kill or ne killed. This is little : for the 
maxim not being yet entirely abolifhed, we are not fufficiently fcn- 
iible how ridiculous it will appear two thoufand years hence, or 
with what contempt it would have been received in the time of 
Euripides. But in a former age, a knight would take a fancy to 
meafure liis fword with an unknown perfon, who expcfted no 
fixch challenge. This we muft allow to that age : reafon requires 
we fhould. It was then a point of honour, ' and fame was the mo- 
tive. I fay nothing of the cuftom of having feconds in duels; an- 
other piece of extravagance, which obliged two friends who had 
flipped together amicably, to cut each othef*s throats a moment 
afterwsu-ds, efpoufing a quarrel in which they were not concerned, 
the caufe of which they were often ignorant of, and ready to join 
widi theiirft comer. Let us fuppole thejfe.cuftoms reprefented on 
our theatre, to an audience cpmpofed of Athenians, or even of 
Prenchmpn feveral ages he;ice, would there be madhoufes fufficicnt 
to lodge tjipfe whom, according to their opinion, they fhould deem 
'wfeOitd with the fame notions? The pandlel is too fbiking to flop 
ther^^. It is agreed, thep, that manners are fubje(9: to great changes, 
and fo hkewife are the ideas of virtue. Opinion has its viciflitudes, 
arifing from nature and education, and only the Chriflian religion can 
fix it. Did not the favages of Canada think it a pious duty to kill their 
father^, when they had reached an extreme old age, to deliver them 
fropi itsinconycnijcncies ? And have not the fathers among them de- 
manded death from their children, as a mark of filial tenoernefs and 
obedience? This anfwer,if well confidered,is fufficient to make us at 
leafl fufpend our judgment of the fcene in queflion, and reconcile 
us to a fair examination of it. Laying prejudice afide, then, it 
cannot, in the firft |Jace, be faid, £hat Admetus really intreated 
thofe who gave him being to facrifice themfelves for him. Apollo 
indeed fays, (Adk the firft. Scene the firil) that this prince had 
founded his friends and relations upon this fubjedt ; but we mufl 
explain this term by the fable itfelf. Apollo had declared (and 
probably in the prefence of Pheres, of his wife, and of Alceilis,) 

* The principles of natural law are not fometimes changed by diftant confequen, 
.cffiiced an the hearts pf men; but they are ces. 

Vol. IL R that. 



(as the manner dien was) gave credit to the word of a fi4eiid> 
who endeavoured to peiiuade him that AlceAis wal» out of the 
quefHon. In thofe days perfons were lefs fobtle and kfi penetrat** 
ing than in ours^ and it was common enough to brieve « maa 
upon his word. And it is certain, that mis fault is prodfUCKve 
of fo many beauties, that we readily admit the poet's j^iatibn. 
The errors of mafters in any art, are often thfe 'tfft&$f df the art 

Buchanan, who has tranflated this play into very fme Latin 
verfe, as one of thofe in which the tender and pathetic moftftrwrk 
him, was fo little affefted with thefe errors, that he has ndthef 
fuppreft nor difguifed them : for Buchanan, by Idng ftud^ihg the 
ancients, had entered into their ideas ^ arid is it ndt very frthtiVit, 
that our readinefs to condemn them prddteds from our having 
ftudied thefe great modek mUch lefs than he did? As for Qrnnaut, 
although in his opera of Alceftis he has follow^ a vtiffy differet^t 
plan from that of Euripides, yet he was not afi^d of d^;aflSng 
the prefent age, by preserving the charadier of the old tiianPheres^ 
to whom, anK>ng feveral IpeMhesof itioAmc kkad^ he gives the 
following one 2 

" Jaime mon fils, }c Vm faitkoi; 
** Pour prolonger fon fort je mourrois fans effiroi, 
" Si je pouvois offrir des Jours dignes <l'envie. 

" Je n*iai plus qu'iin relle de vie : 
" Ce n'eft rien pour Admete, & c*eft>eaucoup poui moi. . 

This is certainly 6qual tothefelines of Eariplides : *« * If life 'be^eltr tb 
« thee, think'ft thou it is not deiair likewife to me ?** I filial fiy: nochiil^ 
of the other French Alc^ftis ; beoKofe I have no intention to cii- 
ticife living authors : but it is greatly to be laawfftedy fchut Rucihfc 
did not execute the plan he hadiketched out. Wcrflwuid thenhttve 
feen with what art he would have accommodatedallthfe wonders of 
the original to our manners. His Phedra ^d Iphigenia anfwer 
for the fuccefs of Alceftis. JHcWcver, without r^retting what we 
have not, let us judge what thecc^wouldhatftibeen by thfcb«tt- 
ties of the original. What gradaai^hiaglitenifag ttf nobte forrow 
from the opening of the play till the cttnclufion, uad this^^iiAottt 
any epifode ! What painting inr the rdation made by the coj&fid«««^! 
What images, what natural ftrokes, in the fpsecna tef : Ateeftis, 


A L C E ^ T I S. 125 

when (he takes leave of her hufband and children^ and fancies (he 
already fees Charon and the monarch of the dead dragging her to 
the infernal regions ! How is the pomp of the funeral, and the 
grief of Admetus realized ! And, laftly, can there be a fituation 
more affedling, and better contrived, than that of Admetus and 
Alceftis veiled ? Certainly the pen which has produced fo many 
ftriking beauties deferves that, without being prejudiced ,by the 
arguments urged by the Perrauts, we fhould be fo far juft, as not 
to call thofe things abfurd and ridiculous which are eafier to be 
defended than condemned *. 

• The laft proof in favour of Alceftis is, tions Alceffis j but fays not a word of what 
that Ariftophanes is fiient upon thofe paf- appears abfurd to us, not even in hisFrtgsi 
fages, at which the modems are (hocked, an evident fign that it was not abfurd in tbe 
This poet, who let loofe all the rage of, opinion of the Athenians, 
ciiticiun upon Euripides, fometimes men- 

9 ^ • . r* 







•# • 1 1- r t ■%■%■< * • t > • t. .:. X 


XHE following tragedies are all that remains of fevcnty at lead: 
compofed byEfcnylus; I fay, at lead feventy. Forfomc have 
>ned a hundred, five of vjrhich were formerly called fatyric trage- 
dies ; that is; plays in which fatyrs aded their parts, and which 
partook of the nature of comedy, without preferving fcarce any 
lihlhg of the dignity of tragecty. This fingukr kiml of drama was 
very licentious ; but the only one which is left us, is the Cyclops of 
Euripides : and this is fufficient to leflen our concern for the lofs 
of the reft. It is indeed furprifing, that the greateft geniufes 
among the Athenians fhould have degraded their buikin to a kind 
of comedy, fo low and ridiculous, only to pleafe the people. One 
of thefe dramas was always abided to the three tragedies compo- 
fed by each candidate for the prize of poetry, and the|c four pieces 
together were called a T^tralogie. It was in this manner that 
Efchylus contended with his cotemporaries. But afterwards So- 
phocles ^poifd tragedy to tr^edy, €is Suidas ol^ferMs^ %i^ itASi 
i^Sy ppobabl^ thA^ thfe- cuftom w*6 cont^ued^fof the Aitufc. 
There was certainly fomething very ridiculous in thus oppofing 
four tragedies to four, fince one or two plays of an author might 
be fuperior to one or two of his competitors, and the two others 
might If^ w^iffe :Cl>ut>rithout^ entonilg hftre iito tb^fe diebates, 
which I have purpofely avoided, that I might only prefent the 
reader with the true manner of the ancient poets, it will be fuf- . 
ficient to begin with (hewing that of Efchylus. Although the 
extracts here given from his plays are much lefs extenfive than the 
analyfes of the other Greek poete, jFCt from thefe extrads a juft 
idea may be formed of his genius ; and it will appear, that the 
Greeks did not without reaibn call him the father of tragedy, not 
only on account of that, elevation and fingular /lobjenpfs which 
cUftio^iuth b\% ftrcdks; hut becuifelievSKas^.realy Ae ii^antor <)f the 
dialogue, by introducing three interlocutors upon the ftage, which 
had never been before. 

The following plays are ranged according to the common edi- 
tions; but, if we follow hiftorical order, they ought to ftand thus : 

iPhe«Tri>t^l.I AKTS. 
The SEVEN CHIEFS at theSicgc of Thebes. 




O F 

E S C H Y L U S. 

PROMETHEUS, in chains. 

THIS is one of the three tragedies which Eichylus compo- 
fed upon the hiftory of Prometheus; namely/ his theft, 
his chains, and his deliverance. The fecond only has 
come down to us. The fubjedt, and all the incidents, are extra^^ 
yagant enough. It is the puriiflinient of Prometheus, but difie* 
rent, in fome relpe<as, from that reprefented by the other poets. 

A C T I. 

Force and Violence, the children of Stvx, come with Vulcan to 
a horrid defert of European Scythia. They point out immediate- 
ly the place where the fctne is laid, and the occafion of their ar- 
rival, by repeating to Vulcan Jupiter's orders to bind Prometheus 
to a rock^ as a punifhment for having flolen the celeftial fire, and 
communicating it to mortals. Vulcan, as the God of fire, is in- 
terefted in the robbery ; yet can with difficulty refolve to execute 
this vengeance on a Deity, for fuch Prometheus is fuppofed to be. 
However, Jupiter mufl be obeyed, and Vulcan weeps, while he 
pronounces to the guilty fon ot Themis the fentence pafTed upon 
him by Jupiter. Force and Violence urge Vulcan to execute his 
commands ; and hence arifes a conteft between Severity and Com- 
paffion, which woiUd appear even to us to be in the true fpirit of 
tragedy, if the fubjed wgs different, or if we had the key to it. 

Vol. IL / S The 


The God of fire yields to die fupreme power of Jupiter, who is 
fuppofed to be lately eftablJflied in his dominions. He difplays 
the chains, which are already prepared, and binds the unfortu- 
nate Prometheus ; guilty orily in hi^ ft>o greit love for mankind. 
He ^Is the irons to a rock, while theOivinitics, who are looking 
on, urge him to negleft nothing that may prevent the criminal from 
cfcaping die vengeance of the Gods. The manner in which all 
this is executed is fhocking. Pot tven the neck |of the unhappjr 
vidim is pierced through with diamond nails, and every circum- 
ftance of the 4)unifhxx)ent is. fo ilrongly ^narked, that the>reprefen^ 
4i^n mUft kavc infpired thfe utmoft hdtror. Xt lengthy ^thc thitH 
Lii^inides leave hihi; Vulcan with exprefSons of comniiferation, 
but the two others with bitter railleries upon Prometheus, for his 
funpofed crime. This whole ibene is full of iktyricid ftrokes^ 
Wmch Yepr^cht Jtipher as an uRtrper : f<5r he is {aid to have en- 
ilavedall the Gods, and to reign over them with boundlefs authori^. 

The unhappy i>eiiy, who hid' kidierto beta ^cilt^ calls the 
ether, the winds, the fountains,, the /ea, the earth> itadthe fitn^ 
ft) tdtifefs, of' the injuftice which lie, 'dibugh a God, iiifeered f*om: 
thc<5od&. Already liecGilntsth'emanydibufand years heis likely to 
hhgtiilh Upon this tfick : for he feeing not to know when his pu- 
h!j£nie);tt is to ha^e an end, and imputes this treatment to the 
lyranity of the netv maftcr of the uniyerfe. But fuddeiily he fe- 
calfeTiis rpifits; and deriving Tortitude from his art of fortelling fu- 
ture events, he yields for a timeto invincible neceiiity. Such is the 
name he gives to DefHny. 

In At' niidff ofhis complaints, he heats a noiife, as of the flight 
bf birds atttund Ws rock. This is occafioned iby die arrival of the 
nymphs, the daughters of Tlietis and die Ocean : they are 
borne upon the wings of the Wihd, and come to exprefs their 
forrow to Prometheus for the condition to which he is re- 
ihiced by Jupiter ; for they tell him, they had heard the 
ftrdfecs of the hamtner, whith rcfotmded in the depdis of their 
grottos. This cdnvetfatioh is at firft in'ade. up bf murmurs againft 
die ftew' government of heaven. They &y, that Tugifcrhas thro^vn 
fell things mto cottfttfion in the celcftial court: tnat he is cruel, in* 
flexible, iuipicious, and tyrannical. Prometheus taftes the fweet- 
.pefsof an airticipattfd revenge,by declaring that Jupiter will be de- 
throned J diat this God will coftfult him c6ncerning^the conlpira- 
cy, but /hall not prevail upon him to make die lealft difcovcry. 
'He fpeaks like one tranfported with rage^ The Choms, tvhich 
is compofcd of the Sea-Goddeflcs before mendoncd, exprefs 

2 themr 


themfdvcs with more moderation, but to the fame purpofc. Curio- 
-fity incites thefe Divinities to afk the caufe of fo fbrange a punifli- 
ment. Prometheus gives them a circumftantial relation of it; and 
thus the audience is fully informed of the fubjed. 

He goes back to th^ fedition of the Gods againft Saturn, the re- 
bellion of the Titans ag^ft Jupiter, and the confequence of thefe 
confpiracies, which was the banifhment of Saturn, and the defeat 
of the Titans : ** For it is through my prudent coimfek, fays he, 
*^ that Jupiter now reigns, and this is my reward for a fceptre which 
^* he owes to" me/' Here Prometheus affigns the caufe of this 
treatment. " Jupiter, fays he, by the fall of Saturn, and the de- 
*' feat of th/c Titans, becoming mafter of the ixniyerle, pditically 
** conciliated the favour of the Gods by various gifts, but &ewed no 
** regard to the human race, which he was defirous of deftroying, 
^ that he might produce an entire new world. The heavenly 
•* court con&nted ; but I gave him different advice : I only had 
** courage enough to preferve mankind ; but my compailion for 
^ them could not move the tyrant, who peHecutes me dius. Such 
*^ is my crime, and fuch nxy punishment/' The Chorus feem greatly 
zffc&cd with thefe words, and Promedieus continues : ** I pre- 
^^ veiiced mortals from ieeing clearly into their future deftiny/' By 
what means, fay the Chorus P ^^ By imprelling blind hopes upon 
^ tiheir minds," anfwers the God. ^* An inedioftaUe bleiiing rhisP* 
replies the firfl: nymph. Trometheus concludes his account ofthe 
gifts he had beftowed upon mankind by that of £re. He iavites the 
nymphs to deicend,and be witnefles of his adventurea: for till now 
thefe Goddeffes had hovered in the air in machines. And here the 
Chorus £dlf take their place on the ftagt^ 

• A C T n. 

The Ocean, as uncle to Prometheus, comes to ihare the grief 
of his nephew. He appears mounted on a flrange kind of wing-, 
ed animal ; an unaccountable extravagance this. He wifely ad- 
vifcs Prometheus to fubmit to Jupiter, and not to ftmggle againft 
fovereign power. He offers to a^ as a mediator between them^ 
and to endeavour to appeafe the anger of the offended Deity. But 
Prometheus, from his knowledge of the implacable charadler of 
Jupiter, refufes thefe offers;; being apprehenfive, that fuch fub- 
miffions would be prejudidal lo the mediator, and ufelefs to him. 
The Ocean, moved to compafllon not only for Prometheus, but 

S 2 . for 


for Atlas *, condemned to fupport the heavens, and for Typhon -f-i 
ftruck with thunderbolts, and crufhed underneath mount Etna, 
continues fixed in his defign to folicit their pardon. " No, an- 
** fwers Prometheus, do thoii, like a (kilful courtier, make ufe of 
^ all thy endeavours to keep well with him thyfelf, (for the Ocean 
" had been concerned in the quarrels of the Gods) and leave 
** Jupiter s refentment to be foftened by time." 

The Ocean, convinced at length by the arguments of Prome- 
theus, retires as he came, and leaves the Chorus to repeat their 
accuftomed compl^ts with fongs and a kind of dance. Thefe 
complaints turn upon the feverity of Jupiter, the fate of Prome- 
theus^ and the grief ©f thofc who compaflionate his misfortunes. 


" It is not (fays Prometheus, beginning^ third aft) it isnoir 
** pride, which reilrains me from fubmiflion; but I cannot forgive 
" this indignity which the Gods have offered me. This newcourr 
** owes every thing to me ; you know it : I will not repeat the 
*' benefits I have bellowed upon it. But hear what I have done in 
'* favour of the human race. From brutes, as they were, I found 
>* the happy art to make them men. I fay not this to reproach 
** them witn my gifts, but to fliew you how far I have carried my 
^ affedion for them. Blind to their own advantages, deaf to the 
** voice of reafbn-, like vaia phantoms, they wandered about with- 
" out order, and without laws* They fheltered themfelves, like 
" vile infedts, in the hollows of caves and rocks : they were igno- 
** rant of the art of building houfes for their habitations. Un- 
" certain in their conduct, diey difcemed neither the change o£- 
" feafons, nor the progrefs of time. It wasi whofirft taught them 
" to obferve the courfe of the ftars : it was 1 who inftrudled themt. 
" in the myftery of numbers^^ the connexion of letters, who gave 
'• them memory, that mother of the mufes. I taught them to. 
** fubjed beafts, not their own Ipecies, to the yoke, to tame the 
** fiery fteed, and make it fubfervient to their pleafures and their 
" ufe. Who but my felf taught them the mariner's art ? To me 
^* they owe all thefe advantages. Alas ! the unhappy author of (6 
«' many arts knows not how to deliver himfdif from the torments 
•^ unjufUy inflidled on him.'* 

* A mountain of Africa, one of the f A mountain of Sicily, famous for ita^ 
bijgheft in the whole eartlu. emitting flames and ftones. 



Prometheus, after a fhort interruption by the Chorus, conti- 
nues in this manner to relate all the favours he had lavifhed upon 
mortals. According to him, phyfic, with all its medicines, the talent 
of explaining dreams, with their prognoftics, and of diftinguifliing 
prefages, with their confcquences, make part of his gifts. It was 
he, who, from the bowels of the earth, drew iron, ftcel, filver, 
and gold. In a word, he is the inventor of all the arts. This gives 
the Chorus room to hope, that a Deity fo ufeful to others, may be 
able to relieve himfelf. " You deceive yourfelves, replies Prome- 
** theus ; Dcftioy is fupcrior to wifdom. The Fates and Furies 
'* govern Deftiny, and Jupiter himfelf is fubjeSed , ro them/* 
'* What, reply tiie Chorus, is it not his fate to reign for ever ?*' 
Prometheus anfwers this queftion no otherwife, than by faying, 
that he will take care not to explain himfelf on this fubjeift; and 
that his deliverance from his bonds (hall be the price of this fecret. 
The nymphs, terrified at this impiety, exprefs their abhorrence 
of it, according to the ofRce affigned the Chorus; and reprefent to. 
Prometheus, that his aiieflion for mankind fhould not make him 
rcgardle/s of the anger of Jupiter, the Ibvereign of the Gods. 
They here advance a maxim, as the coniequence of this fyftem. 
of deftiny, which is. Never to forget that nothing is more delight- 
ful than to prolong life by pleafures and by hope. 


lo *, who unravels the intrigue of this play, arrives by chance in Scy- 
ihia, not knowing whither her frenzy had led her. She enquires what 
place fhe is in of Prometheus, whom fhe is fuipriied to find in this 
condition. Then, without waiting for his annvcr, fhe feels her- 
ielf aeitated by one of her ufual fits of frenzy. She fancies (he- 
fees the ihade of Argus, who rifes from his tomb to purfue her. 
«* What, fays fhe, have I done> oh fon of Saturn, that I am 
thus cruelly treated ? (It is to Jupiter that fhe thus addrefTes 
herfelf.) How canft thou delight in feeing me the victim of a 
horrid frenzy ? Oh ftrike me with thy bolts, bury me within 
the bowels of the earth, give me up a prey to the monfters of 
" the fea. Ah, envy me not thecfFeft 0/ thefc fad prayers. Too 

* lo is the Goddefs Ifis^ adored by the three hundred and forty-fix years before the 
Egyptians. Inachus, her father, founded children of Ifrael left the land of Egypt., 
the. kingdom of /irgos ; be reigned aboTe 

*«- long 




^* long have my rcftlefs wanderings lafted, and I know not when 
" . they are to have an end." Thus, and ftill more pathetically, fpeaks 
the grief of the unhappy lo. No one can with Dacier * be per- 
fuaded, that' (he appears on the ftage in the form of a cow; al- 
though an epithet relating to that transformation feems obfcurely to 
hint it : • but this is too ridiculous a fuppofition to have any foun- 
dation. It is fujflicient, that the fpcftators are already informed, 
that this princefs either imagined herfelf transformed to a cow, or 
that (he really bore on her head fome marks of her pretended mc^ 

Prometheus, as a Deity, knows her immediately. She is afto- 
nilhed at it; (he enquires of him bow long her miferies are to con- 
tinue. He is unwilling to anfwer for fear of afflicting her. She 
infifts upon knowing : (he urges him to foeak. But Prometheus, 
before he will grant her requeft, in treats Tier to relate her adven- 
tures to the fea-nymphs, who are the (ifters of Inachus her father. 
lo, to oblige her aunts, relates her hiftory almoftin the (amc man- 
ner as the Greek poets have done, and Ovid after them. Prome- 
theus then reveals to her the painful travels to which the jealou(y 
of Juno (till condemns her. This is a meer geographical defcrip- 
tion, and I fee no beauty it has in refpefl: to the tragedy, except 
the (iifpenfion it occafions, by the curiofity which Prometheus ex- 
cites upon what he has ftill to fay, and in flattering the Athenians 
by the recital of their fabulous annak. lo, terrified at a prophecy 
which threatens her with fo many new misfortunes, re(blves tode- 
ftroy herfelf. ^* Ah, what would'ft thou do then, replies Prome- 
^* theus, if thou wert like me, wretched and tnunortal ; I who 
" cannot ceafe to fufFer till Jupiter ceafes to reign.*' This predic- 
tion, which is the foundation of the tragedy, makes lo exprefs 
hsr wiihes, that her perfecutor may be dethroned ; and (he inquires 
how this can be effeded. " By a fon more powerful than himfelf^ 
" replies Prometheus, whowiU alib^deUver me fromthefe fetters." 
He refufes at firft to be more explicit upon this article ; but after- 
wards he by degrees (hews, that her deliverer will be a defc^endent 
of Io*s -f-, the thirteenth of her race : in a word, that it is Hercules, 
who, in (pite of Jupiter, will break his fetters. But he does not ex- 
plain himfelf immediately ; he leaves it to the choice of lo, whether 

* Dacier's Ariflotle's Poetics. les of Greece were the frme ? For lb, or 

t Is oot this a fabulous way of ihewingy Ifis, whofe poftmiy reined in Egypi^ was 
ihat the Hercules of Egypt and the Hercu* bora in Ar^os. 



Ae win know who this deliverer is to be, or hear what other mis- 
fortunes flie is ftill to fufFer. lo intreats him to fatisfy her con- 
cerning both thefc articles, and interefts the Chorus in her requeft ; 
fo that Prometheus, fuffering himfelf to be prevailed upon, conti- 
nues to give a detail of lo's travels, in the ftyle I have already ob- 
ferved. At length he fixes the eftablilhment of this princefs and 
her pofterity in Egypt -f- ; and as a proof of the truth of his pre- 
didtions, he defcribes the countries fhe had already traverfed. He 
declares toiler, that £he Ihall bear a fon to Jupiter, called Epa- 
phus J, whofe dominions fhall extend as far as the Nile ; that the 
nfty "Danaides, his defcendants, fhall return into Argos ; that each 
of them Ihall kill her hufband, except Hypermneftra only 5 that 
from her blood the deliverer he experts fhall be born ; and that he 
received, this oracle from Themis. lo interrupts him with a new 
fit of frenzy with which flbe is feized, and which enlivens this 
fccne. The Chorus deplore the misfortune of the future wife of 
Jupiter, and condude the ad with a fine moral upon unequal mar- 

A c T v: 

^^ This meqtiality, refumes Prometheus, will be fatal to Jupi- 
^ ter himielf. It will coil: him his fceptre. I only, of all the 
^'Gods,. can teach him the means of preventing his ruin, and 
^ of teoderixig the imprecations of his deuironed father ineffe€tu- 
^ b1. His thunders will not fecure him. Let him prepare for an. 
^ fuemy whom he knows not yet i an unconquerable foe, whofe 
^* ftrokes will be more powernil and more fure than the fire o£ 
** jutavenr and the tildent of Nq>tame/' By this enemy he means 
the Am of '^piter and Afcmena. 

The Chorus endeavour to infbire him with fear of the 
ibvereign. of Heaven. He finiihes his prophecy with expreflions 
of the utmoft contempt of Jupiter. Upon this Mercury arrives,, 
cutting the air with hifr wings. He commands Prometheus,. 
in the name of Jupiter, to declare this fatal fucceijbr, whofe 
^urpation he has prediAed. '* Thou ipeak'il like a flave of 
'^ the new Gods, anfwers the prophet. Dofl thou imagine: 

* Egypt, a vail country, which the an- gulph feparates it from Afia. 
dents placed partly in .Alia, and partly in f Epapha^, the ion of Jopiter and I«Su 

Afiif a, by dinding it by the Nile. It is reigned in Egypt. He buik Meniphis. 
sow placed.- wholly b Africa $ the. Arabian. 



f* their court fecure ? Have I not fccn two kings dethroned ? 

'' Ophion was one, Saturn the other Away, I will not reveal 

" my fecret/* 

Mercury reprefents to him, that it was this very obflinacy which 
had drawn all his misfortunes on him. '* I would not, anfwers 
" Prometheus, change my misfortunes for thy fuccefsful mean« 
*' nefs/* Here follows a very fliort and very fpirited dialogue, 
which gives Prometheus an opportunity of (hewing his invincible 
' firmnefs. He refolves to be an enemy to Jupiter, and the reft of 
the Gods : he fears neither the thunder, nor the fall of the whole 
earth, and chufes to fuffer for ever rather than be one moment 
a fuppliant. His revenge is now fo precious to him, that he is 
determined to gratify it at any price ; and he declares that he will 
not utter a word till Jupiter feas given him fatisfa<ftion. 

Mercury tells him, that he has orders to bury him in the ruins 
of the burfting rocki and that he vnll be allowed to fee the light 
again only to have his bowels become the prey of Vultures, and 
ftiU renewed to be devoured. He conjures him to follow his ad- 
vice before it be too late, and iave himfelf by fubmiffion from this 
dreadful puniflimcnt. The Chorus join their intreaties to thofe of 
Mercury : but Prometheus, enraged to the laft degree, obftinate- 
ly refufes to comply ; fo that the meifenger of the Gods warns 
the nymphs to withdraw to a diftance, to avoid the thunder. 
The nymphs refufe to leave the unhappy Deity. Immediately a 
dreadful noife is heard in the air. (It is Prometheus himfelf who 
firft gives notice of it.) The ihunder rolls, the earth trembles, the 
lightning flames, the unchained winds roar loud, clouds of duft 
obfcure the fun, and air and fea are confounded together. " Thoii 
" feeft, continues Prometheus, invoking the aid of Themis his 
" mother, thou Iceft what torments they unjuftly inflift upon me." 
That inftant he difappears, either fwdlowed up in the earth, or 
carried away in a whirlwind, as M. Dacier fuppofes. 

I have nothing to fay of this piece, except that we find in it 
more of the ancient rndenefs of dawning tragedy, mixed with much 
grandeur and elevation, than in any of the following plays of the 
lame author. It is not impoifible but that the fubjed, which, 
to ufe Dacier's expreflion, appears monftrous to us, is an allegory 
upon kings, and perhaps upon Xerxes or Darius, which muft 
Xieceflarily be extremely pleafing to a republic. Perhaps alio it 
relates to the conquefts ef the Heradidae. But I acknowledge, that 
to me there appears not fufficient foundation for applying this 



enigma to any particular fad of hiftory, nor to endeavour at embel- 
liihing this piece by allegorical interpretations, which, probable as 
they may feem, it will not perhaps admit. Yet it is certain, that 
the invedtives of Prometheus againft royalty muft have been intcreft- 
ing to the Athenians, and that Efchylus in thefe paflages had a view 
to pleafe them. As for the reft, it is indeed not eafy to compre- 
hend what pleafure they could receive from this fabulous iyftem^ 
taking it literally, if it is not allowed that it was fuited to the ideas 
and manners of antiquity* 




At the siege op THEBES- 

OEDIPUS, whofe hiftoiy we have in the firft part of this 
work, had by Jocafta two fons, Polyniccs and Eteocles^ 
and two daughters, Antigone and Ifmena. 

He punifhes himfelf for his involuntary crimes, by tearing out 
his eyes, and reiigns his crown to his two Tons. Efchylus fup- 
pofes thefe ungrateful princes to repay his gift no otherwife, than by 
ihutting up their unhappy father in a clofe impriibnment. Oedi- 
pus, in the form of an imprecation, predids to them, that they 
fliall deftroy each other by the fword. To avoid the effcds of this 
threat, Polynices and Eteocles agree never to ht in Thebes at the 
fame time, and to fway the fceptre in turn every year. Polynices 
reigns firft; and, at the end qi the year, faithniUy performs the 
agreement, and yields the crown to his brother. But Eteocles, 
having tafted the fweets of dominion, was lefs fcrupulous, and 
when his year was expired, refufed to refign the fceptre to his 
brother. The injured Polynices retires to Adraftus king of Argos, 
and marries his daughter, on condition, that Adrafbis will engage 
in his interefts, and lead an army of Ardves to the Sie^ of 
Thebes. The event of the combat fulfils me prophecy of Oedi- 
pus. The two brothers kill each other. Sucn is the fubjedt of 
this tragedy of Efchylus. It is a Thebaid ; but the title that Ef- 
chylus gives it is more fuitable to his defign 5 becaufe the poem 
turns upon the fcven warriors who attacked the feven gates of 
Thebes. Efchylus had written [three plays upon fubjeifts preced- 
ing this in the hiftory of Thebes; namely, Laiu5, the Sphinx, 
and Oedipus. The Seven Chiefs is the only one of the four tra- 
gedies which has come down to us. 

A C T I. 

Eteocles appears firft, with the anxiety of a king whofe capital 
is fbon to be expofed to the miferies of a fiege, and ^ho is pre-* 

5 paring 

T H E S :E V E 1^ C H I E F 5, &c. 139 

1>amg(to (provide £ar ran evonrte* He is -farroiiiided ^ieh his p^ffk, 
men> womeii, imdchihiseQ. Some ^e exhorts to defend tnecit3r 
bravely, and others to perform facrifices to the Gods : at the fame 
time ne informs them, •^t a numerous army is approaching, 
whofe defigns he )ias taken care to difcover by nis ipies« At that 
inftant, one xff them arriws, and acquaints him that he has feen 
the Argiw army- ^* Thefe ^j^es, fays he, were witneflcsof what 
^^ I am.going to relate. I faw the fcvcn warriors iacrifice a ball upon 
'* one of their fliields, each dip his hands in the blood, and fwear, 
^^ with horrid oaths, by Mars and Bellona, and the Moody car«- 
*• nage of war, either to lay the dty of 'Cadmus in afhes, or to 
*' peri(h underneath its walls. Already with tears they load th6 
<* chariot of Adrafbis with pledges deftined for their fnend^, to 
** recal the fad remembrance of their deaths/' For Ac prophet 
Amphiaraiis, one of the feveti warriors, had foretold, that only 
Adraftusihould return to his own country : therefore the others 
coi«fide:to4baa'thepre&nts which, according to cuftom, they^ent 
<o their nlitkms, whom 'they were never to behold zg2in. ^ Pity, 
'^ continues the ipy, is banimed from their lips and nearts. Their 
^« rage is enflamed like chat of lions, who prepare to fight.'* 

Me adds, that he left ihem, after they had decided by lot which 
gate each was to attack ; and he advifes Eteocles to oppofe them 
with ^hofen warriors : ^ For all ii prepared in the enemy's army^ 
"** fays he ; diey approach, th^ will be here in a few moments} 
^ the fields are covered with the foam of their fteeds. Do thou, 
"^^ like -an experienced pilot, ta^ke the helm, and confider how to 
«' defend us, ere the deftroying breath of Mars comes over us : 
<' feize the favourable moment, before thefe dreadful waves daih 
^* over our heads, and a h<»Tid deluge fwallows aQ.'* 

'Eteocles has recourfe to the Gods, in a fhort and pathetic pray- 
er, after the manner of Efchylus, ** Oh Jupiter! Oh ye tutelary 
** Divinities ! Oh dreadful imprecation pronounced by my father, 
«^ do not this day, by the hands df me Argives, exterminate a 
^* Grecian city, a city whofe towers are confecrated to thee, &c." 
After this he retires to give die neceflary orders. 

The Chorus, compofed of Theban virgins who had retired to 
the higheft part of the city, near a temple, (the place vv^here the 
fcene is laid) exprefs their fears in the mod lively manner; fome-* 
times by flriking pidures of the ^horrors of war, fonietimes by af- 
fcdting prayers to the Gods. They arc feen to embrace their fta- 
tucs« to.put crowns on their heads, and veiled, to implore the affifl- 

T 2 ance 


anceof Mars> Jupiter, Pallas, Neptune, Venus, and all the other 
Divinities^ with a kind of eloquence peculiar to Efchylus. 


Eteoclcs, on his return, perceives that the cries and exclama- 
tions of thefe virgins have fpread terror and difmay throughout 
the city. He reproves them for it in very harfli terms, which 
certainly are not in our tafte. He fays, that women are always infup- 
portable, in power haughty and imperious, in misfortune abjedb, 
their fear contagious, and ever ready to communicate itfelf to 
others. And, laftly, he threatens with death thofc of hi« fubjefts 
who fhall dare to difobey him. 

The Chorus of virgins alledge that they have reafon for their 
Complaints and fupplications. During this dialogue, they fancy 
the enemy is clofe by them ; they think they hear the claming of 
arms, and the neighing of horfes. The king in vain endeavours 
to calm their fears. They redouble their cries and prayers. 
At length they promife to compofe their minds, and to fing, after 
the manner of Chorufes, a hynm in honour of the Gods, while 
Etcocles withdraws to chufe fix chiefs, who, with himfelf, may 
oppofe the leaders of the Argivc army. 

The hvmn of the Chorus, which is divided into Strophes and 
Antiftropnes, forms an admirable ode upon the miferable efFeds 
bf war. It is full of fentiments and lively ftrokes, which paint 
the fack of a city delivered up as a prey to the enemy. It every 
where abounds with dreadful images : foldiers breathing rage and 
ilaiighter, raviihed vireins, children murdered in the bofoms of 
their mothers; and all mis is fo heightened by the terrors and pa- 
thetic adlion of the Chorus, that the enemy feem not to be at the 
gates^ but in the midft of ihe city itfelf. 


The foy returns with Eteocles, and gives him an account of the 
plan of the fiege, which he had juft been fecretly obferving. This 
fcene is very long; and might have been intereftingto the Atheni- 
ans, who knew Thebes, and the warriors mentioned in it^ The 
fpy begins, with naming Tydeus, as the firft who undertakes the 
attack of one of the gates. He draws his character, and defcribes 
his fliield, in the midft of which there is a moon in a iky fprinkled 

' " . with 


^ith ftars. Eteocles draws a- favourable omen from this fymhol, 
and oppofes Menalippus to this warrior. The Chorus approve his 
choice, and make vows for the Theban hero ; and the wnole fcene» 
which gives name to the tragedy, goes on in this manner : for, as 
the fpy names the leader who is to attack one of the gates, the 
king gives the command of it to a Theban warrior, ftill t^ing 
care to undervalue the emblem and arms of the afTailant, which 
are always defcribed. The Chorus then repeat their vows ; and la 
on, till the feventh chief is named, which proves to be Polynices: 
and now Eteocles difcovers, that it is he who mufi: oppofe his bror 
the. He has a melancholy prefage of the event. " Oh fatal 
** anger of the Gods! cries he; Oh wretched race of Oedipus,! 
** Alas, my father's curies will be fulfilled — But tears and com- 
^ plaints are unworthy of me. A more preffing evil demands my 
** care. Soon Ihall Polynices fee what his vain emblem, of which 
** he boafts fo much, will end in." This device is juftice leading 
in a man in armour, with thefe words for a motto, ^^ I will reftore 
" this man to the throne of his father." Eteocles, making an 
allufion to this emblem, fays, ** No ; juftice never honoured him 
<< with a look ; ihe will not give her aid to an ufurper ; is it con- 
" fiftent with equity, to join the party of a furious wretch who in* 
^^ vades his country ? Armed with a juft confidence, myfelf will 
** go to meet this Polynices, to fight and conquer him* King 
'^ againft king, brother againft brother, enemy againft enemy, 
^* I only (hould oppofe him. Bring me my arms, &c." 

The Chorus, feized with horror at this refolution, in vain en- 
deavour to difluade him from it. The king quits them, after a 
vety beautiful dialogue, and goes out determined to confirm the 
imprecations of Oedipus ; while the Chorus terminate this adt by 
the ufual fong, in which they exprefs their fears concerning the de^ 
ftiny of their kings, and the hiftory of their fatal race. 

A C T IV. 

A man (probably the fame perfon who all along ads as a 
fpy) comes to inform the virgins that the city is fafe ; that the 
Thebans are conquerors at the attack of the fix gates; but that 
Apollo had feized the feventh, to punifli the crimes of Laius : in a 
word, that the two kings are dead by each other's hand. ** They 
** agreed, fays he, to diipute the pofleflion of this kingdom in a 
*^ fingle combat. Their father's curfe is accomplifhed ; a t6mb 

'^ wiU 


'^ win now Gbnfine their fatal ambition, and Thebes is delivered 
*• from their rage/* . 

At this unexposed newiSt the Chorus know not whether to give 
way to joy for their deliverance from the horrors of a ficge, or to 
forrow for the deplorable fate of their fovereigns. The latter pre- 
vails. They weep for the two brothers, whom a cruel jealoufy 
had rendered competitors, and animated to the laft excefs of rage 
•and defpair. They begin the mourning with funeral fongs, and 
words conformable to tnefe fongs. Immediately a crowd of citizens 
appear, bearing the bodies of the two kings. 

Antigone and Ifmena, their fifVers, come to mix their lamenta- 
tions with thofe of the Theban virgins. The latter divide into 
two Demi-Chorufes, and fing or ipcak alternately, fymoathifing 
with the grief of the two princeflcs. ** Ah, they cry, the city i)s 
** filled with mourning. Thefe walls, thefe towers, witncfs their 
** grief, and the whole region weeps its kings. To their fad heirs 
" they leave thefe rich pofleffions, the fburces >of their difcord, and 
** death the fruit they have reaped. ** Ohjocaftaf moft wretched 
** of women and of mothers, who became the wife of thy own 
** fon, to give birth to two brothers, that have flaughterea each 
^' other.-~Their hatred is extinguiflied in their blood i the kin- 
-^^ dred-ftreams mingled as they flowed, and undiftingui(hed ftain- 
^^ ed the ground. The muraering fword decides Oieir quarrel. 
^^ Relentlefs Mars, thus haft thou divided the inheritance of a fa- 
^^ tber, wkofe dreadful imprecations thou haft accomplifhed. — 
^^ Oh palace filled wilh honors I at length the Furies nave raifed 
*^ their dreadful voices to fing the ruin of a haplefs race that like 
** a dream is vaniihed. Vengeance fixed iier ftandard at the gate 
^^ where the unnatural brothers fought, and the black demon that 
** animated them, relented not till both were flain." 

Antigone and Ifinena conclude thefe lamentations with a kind 
of duet, extremely fine, but not eaiy to render into our language. 
It is a continued antithefis, which turns upon the death given and 
received, and upon the mutual rage of Polynices andEteocles. 

A C T V. 

Thie kft ad, if it is an ad, which the interpofition of the 
{on^ make it appear to be, is as (hort as the third is loi^. But 
the ftage bein^ continually filled with the Chorus, this inequality 



of the aftt is lefs ftrikiog in the Greek tragedies than- it woidd be 
in ours> which have not the fame advantage 

The fong is interrupted by a herald, who publifhes a decree of 
the Theban fenate, which ordains fepulchral honours to Eteocles» 
as having fought for his country againft enemies who came to de« 
ftroy it I and, by the fame decree, the body of Polynices is to be 
given a prey to the birds, for having expo&d his country to the rage 
of a foreign army. This is expreflcd with great* energy, and on 
the one fide fhews us how far the ancients carried their fuperfti* 
tion, with regard to funeral honours ; that their moil ardent wi(he» 
were to be buried in their native land ; and that nothing could be 
more difiionourable than the being deprived of a tomb. On the 
other fide, it informs us, in what veneration they held their coun- 
try in the Grecian ftates, when the mod juftiiiable cauie, cvea 
the ufurpation of a crown, could not anthorize the dethroned 
prince to return armed into his dominions. 

Antigone, enraged at fo injurious a decree, protefls, that, if 
they refufe her brother thefe facred duties, fhe will pay them to 
him herfelf The diipute between the princefs and tne herald 
grows warmer evenr moment : at length tne Chorus put an end ta 
it. They join with Antigone, and feparate into two bodies, one 
of which retires to perform the funeral of Eteocles, and the other 
that of Polynices. The unravelling of this tragedy is in the fame 
tafte with that of the Ajax of Sophocles. In both thefe poems, 
the laft a£t feems to be fuperfluous, the affcion being clofed by the 
deaths of the principal perfons. But beiides, that the religious 
veneration of the Greeks, with regard to the rites of the fepulchre, 
fumifhes one argument in juftification of Efchylus and Sophocles, 
another may be urged in their favour, which is, that a tragedy is 
left unfinished, when vice is not puniihed, and virtue rewaraed. 
At leaft, the neceflity of doing it, folves the doublenefs of the ac- 
tion, and makes two in appearance but one in reality. Now 
this happens in the poem we have been examining, by means of 
the Theban council's degree. It is true, that the two brothers 
being dv ad, and the city delivered, the imprecation of Oedipus,, 
which ni.kes the ground of the fubjedt, is accomplished, and 
confequeii'^ the a^on feems to be terminated. But Eteocles, 
although ;^r i^ty of having fought with a brother, whofefceptre he 
unjuftly (id :ined, yet deferves to be lamented by the citizens 
whom he had defended j, and Polynices^ on the contrary, muil be 



held in deteftation by them, for haviog armed the Arglvcs againft 
liis country. It follows then, that a reward and a punifhment 
muft be ordaiiied at leaft : and this is what Efchylus has continu- 
ed in imitation of Homer, who did not think the funerals of Pa- 
troclus mifplaced, or foreign to the fubjcdt of the Iliad. Whether 
thefe reafons are allowed to have force or not; yet it is certain, 
that this piece is full of beautiful ftrokes of admirable fufpenfions, 
that it is intcrcfting, and forms a furprifing Ipeftaclc. Not* 
withftandingits extreme fimplicitv, it attains the true end of tra- 
gedy, which is to excite terror and compaffion ; fo that Ariftopha- 
nes * did not, without reafon, introduce Efchylus boafting of this 

See the Frogs;, ia Hiq third part of this work. 



P E R S IAN S. • 

yLT' £ R X £ S^ the fon of Darius, and grandibn of Hyftaipcs,. 
jI\^ having made war on the Greeks by land and fea, was van- 
qui(hed at Salamin, Platea, and Mycale. It was Themiftocles 
who encouraged the Athenians at the battle of Salamin i relying, 
as it is faid, upon an oracle, which commanded the Athenians to 
iecure themfelves with walls of wood. He made them build a 
great number of fhips j yet ftill they had no more than three hun- 
dred to oppofe a fleet of more than twelve hundred. Efchylus, it 
is well known, was prefent at the battle of Salamin $ but he did 
not produce his tragedy upon this fubjcdk till eight years afterwards, 
under the Archon Menon. It is remarkable enough, that a fubjcdt fo 
tecent fhould be^rought upon the ftage ; and that before Efchylus, 
there fhould have^peared one upon the fame flory, written by 
Phrynicus, who had undoubtedly treated it in the manner menti- 
oned in the fecond preliminary difcourfe; that is, by recitation, ac- 
companied by a Chorus. But the fubjetft was fo intercfling to the 
Athenians, that it prevailed over that delicacy which makes a re- 
cent fiery lefe pleaiSng tlkan an ancient one, without reckoning that 
the diflance of place aijd diflference of manners might render the 
Perfians, in the eyes of the Athenian fpcftators, what Bajazet and 
the Turks (a cotenipbrary fubjeft to us) are to ours ; fince, as^ Preftcc to. 
Monfieur Racine J}^y obferves, the diftance of place isr equal to Bajazet. 
diftance of time, /^d both equally conciliate veneration, accord- 
ing to the provftrb. Major ^ longirtquo reverentia. 

Yet this fort of fubjedts has been fo feldom handled by the 
Greeks, that it is not difficult to perceive their notions on this ar- 
ticle were the fame as ours, widi this difference only, that we 
ctu*ry our delicacy farther, and they oftener chufe ancient fubjeds, 
taken from the hLftory of their own country, thaa we do. 


Efchylus lays the fcene before a temple^ near the tomb of Darius 
in Sufa. The Chorus is compofedof the ancient men whom Xer- 

* Perfia, an ancient kingdom in Afia, Was more famous than ever at the time ETchy- 
Itts ipeaks of. "" 

Vol. n. U xes 


xes had appointed to govern 4lieJ«ngdom ofPeriia*in hisabfencc; 
and thcfe open the poem. ^ ' Tney are reprefented affembled in 
council, as if to deliberate upon an affair of ftate: and, in effe<3:, 
it is a Jnattei^ gf great ftnportafcc wlSkh, brfcis theW together. 
Anxiotrs and on^fy fbf the fate-of 3&fxes alfcrhis ahuy, whom 
he himfelf had led againft Greece, they begin to draw fatal prefa- 
ges from their haying , received 'WjnteUiflepc^ frpin their king.' 
The ol(J man, who fpcaki for th^ o^i^r^ thug in a few words lays 
the fbundati<Mi of wl^at k to^ii^ppeuin the &>Ilowing £:enes. He 
gives the fbedators ai^ idea pf mif ^eat expedition, and the defiga 
Aerxes had formed ; but ib natwaUy, that it does not appear tl^ 
poet had laboured for the audicnce^i and in t^s confifte the fupfofflic 
art of Efchylus, and of the s^icient tragic writers. *^ Alas, fays this 
^' old man, the whole force of Aiia is with its king. The people 
^' of Sufa« Echatane, znd CiiTa, compofe a double army by land 
*' and fea/' It is thus that he enters into a detail; of this enter- 
prize, the leaders, th^ chariots, the \^frel$, the troops, and iji^^. 
numerable cities drained ofthcirn^en to carry the war into Greece: 
a detail which certainly could not be unpleafing to the conquerors. 
" It is, adds he, the flower of the Perfian youth, ahd of all Aiia, 
** whoie return we have fo long cxpe<3:ed. The wives and rela- 
*• tions of thcfe warriors anxioufly count the days and moments, > 
^* and tremble at this long delay." 

Such is the fituation of thefe old men. Full of uneafyappre-, 
henfions, they follow in their imaginations the march of Xerxes*.- 
who had already pafled the Hellefpont -f-, and chained the fea : 
By thefe chains, they mean the bridge which he had thrown oyer 
this flrait. He then comforts himfelf, by reflecting on the va- 
lour of his fovereign, '* The glance of whofe eyes is naore dread- 
" ful than an enraged dragon ; after him he drags an innumerable 
*' fleet and mighty army. Mounted upon a Syrian car, he leads 
^' Mars, the Mars of Perfia, armed with arrows, againft a people 
*• who defend themfelves with the pike and javelin. What force 
V can refift the impetuous torrent of fuch warriors ? What ram- 
*' parts hold out againft thefe armed billows, more dreadful than 

^SeetheelogiumofthePeriknsinthatage, parates European Thrace from Troas» a 

by Socrates, in the firft Akibiadeg of Plato, province of Afia Miiior. It takes its name 

their greatnefs, their power, tlieir richer from HeUe> the daughter of Athamasj who ' 

the majeity.Qf thei): kiQg$«.xhe. education of 4)e£ luL: flight with Phryyut 

their children, 8cc. her brother, and the golden fleece. 
i The Hellefpont is a fttait which fe- 

*' thofe 

T H E P E R S I A N S. i^y 

** ttofe of the ocean ? Yet, what mortal, (continues he, felap-* 
** fing into his former inquietudes) what mortal can efcape tne 
** fnares of fortune ? The inconftant Goddefs with fmiles al- 
** lures them firft, and ever after keeps them entangled in her 
** toils. Deftiny is an ancient Divinity. It is he who has filled 
^ the hearts of the Perfians with this rage of war ; fieges is their 
" delight, fluwi they enjoy the overthrow of ftates.'* 

It is very probable, that the Chorus continue here in a fong 
what they had begun to recite. They attribute to the Perfians^ 
if not the invention^ yet at leaft a tafte for the marine. At length,, 
^eir apprehenfions increaie, when they reflect that their neigh- 
bours win ibon perceive that Sufa, and the other Perfian cities, are 
deftitute of warriors, and filled with fearful women only. 

The perfon who had firft fpoke, now aflcs the others, what re- 
folution is moft proper to be taken in die cruel uncertainty they 
arc in with regard to the fate of the Perfian army ? Hereupon the 
queen arrives, and begins the fecond a£t. The firft aft, which is 
nothing but a foliloquy, except the finging part, gives us a fpe- 
cimen of the tragedies which preceded thofe of Efchylus. Each of 
Aeir b&s^- was foch as this; and it is really wonderful, that Ef-- 
chylus fbduld have been the inventor of the. whole theatrical art» 
by firft introducing the dialogue. 

A C T II. 

The queoi, froia the^ nfped: that is paid her by the old coun- 
feUors, is immediately known by the audience to be the wife of 
Darius, and the. mother of Xerxes, the wife of one God of the 
Perfians, and the mother ofaootber, as the poet exprefies it. She. 
names hm&lf AtofiL Some learned men have fuppofed fhe was 
tl» Bfther of theiicrq)ture; ocbers fay Vaihti^tfae wife of Ahafue- 
msi Atoffa comes I to oonfiilt tbe Chorus concerning a dream ,» 
vAachff befides maay others {he bad had fince the departure of the 
army, iiad'tormcnted her the whole preceding night. She thought 
fheiavi^twawomien of ;difierent. beauty, and in different habits, 
one.wasr in die-Perfiaa, the. other in the Grecian drefs. They 
feemsd tbi^h&fifters : bw-Peifia had fallen to the (hare of the for- 
nttr^ jsuA Ghsecejpms that of the latter* A quarrd arofe between^ 
them. " My fon,. continues the queen, to prevent the confe-- 
'^ qnences of this: quarrel,, bacnefied them to t^.fame chariot.. 
•* One of them^^ cheaifuUy fubmitted, but the other fierce, in- 
^* ttaiOteible, and unable to endure the yoke, ftruggled to free her- 

U2. -felf,. 


*' felf, and at length broke the chariot. Xerxes fdl to the ground i 
" Darius was prefent, and Teemed to be filled with tender pity 
*' for his fon. Xerxes faw him, and tore his garments for rage 
" and grief." Such was her dream : but what follows is ftiH 
more alarming. 

Atofla tells them, that as (he was offering libations to the prefer* 
ving Gods, to guard her from the misfortunes fhe dreaded, an eagle 
came and took refuge under the altar of the fun : at that inftant 
a bird of lefs iize and ftrength darted upon the eagle, and feized it 
in its talons : at length the trembling eagle fuffered itfelf to be 
torn in pieces, without making any defence. The application 
was eafy ; and accordingly Atoffa makes it to Greece and Xerxes. 
The old man, who Ipeaks for the others, neither attempts to re- 
move or to ftrengthen her appreheniions ; but advifes her to fup« 
plicate the Gods, and to intreat her hulband Darius, whofe ihade 
flie had feen during the night, to render favourable thofe prefages 
he had fent from the fubterranean r^ions. It muft certainly be 
tliat the Perfians were very different from the French ; fince diis 
old man delivers his anfwers as the general deciiion of the whole 
council, whofe fentiments he ieems to have underftood even by 
their filencc. The queen foUowirfg the ufual courfe of the humaa 
heart, which feeks to be delivered from its anxiety, r^ards this 
decifion as a fixed point where fhe ought to ftop for her own tran- 
quillity. Yet her fears recal the Grecian army to her thoughts. 
She enquires concerning their forces, ofwhidiihe is ignorant; 
a circumilance not very furprifing in an age and country where 
women, inftead of mixing in ftate-affairs, placed their chief glory 
in being wholly unacquainted with them. Atofla, therefore, 
queftions the old man with ibme degree of curiofity concerning 
Greece, her treafures, her manner of fighting, and her government: 
articles upon which cuftom obliges her to be ignorant ; but fuch 
ignorance would not be endured upon our theatre now. So true 
it is, that we ought never to lofe fight of the manners of the people, 
when the ancient tragedies are under examination. The Chorus 
anfwer the queen in fuch a manner as increafes her fi^ars and her 
anxiety ; and, in this interval, which is but fliort, a courier from 
the army arrives. This puts an end to that fufpenfion the poet had 

This courier, this meffenger (for I know not what tide to give 
to thofe perfons whofe office it then was to bring fuch intelligence 
to kings, republics, or the theatre^ as changes the whole face of 


T H B P fe R S I A N S. 149 

affairs) whoever he'is^ comes to inform them of the entire Jofs of 
the batde^ with an air that inipires terror and difinay. His rela- 
tion, which is ccHicife and lively, ferves as an explanation of the 
old man's melancholy prefages, and the queen's dream. The 
counfellors in defpair regret the years they have pafled before this 
miferable day. The courier's often interrupted recital, and the 
exclamations of the Chorus, are inexpreffibly moving. It is na- 
ture itfelf : and indeed it is not veiy natural for a man to give a long 
and continued narration of a domeflic misfortune, without being 
interrupted by cries, queftions, and obfervations : Yet this is 
what generally happens upon the ftage, through the neceffity of 
making the recital fhort, and of impreffing it on the minds of the 
audience. However, Efchylus, by attending to the natural move- 
ments of the heart, and by imitating exaduy what paflcs daily in 
common life, has attained both thefe purpofes. His recital grows * 
more interefting, in proportion to the complaints of thofe who hear 
it. Thefe complaints are likewife fo lively and fo beautiful, that 
it is injurious to Eichylus to let them pais,* and it would be ftill 
more fo to tranflate them, fo difficult it is to catch that grace- 
ful fimplicity which is every where predominant in the ancient 
authors of Greece. The Ibrongeft images which grief can fuggeft 
are here difplayed ; veflels wrecked, dead bodies floating on the 
waves, the wild deipair of widows and of orphans : images which 
in us would excite admiration, were we in the fame fituacion with 
the Grecian audience. 

AtoiTa, overwhelmed with this news, as witha fh-oke of thunder, 
keeps a profound filence. At length (he breaks it, to enquire after 
the fate of the princes. She dares not name her ions, through a 
delicate fear of hearing more than fhe defires to know. jThe mef- 
ienger tells her that Xerxes lives; a welcome ieund to the ears of 
a mother, tortured with the moil dreadful apprehenfions : he af^ 
terwards, in a few words, informs her what number of the prin- 
cipal lords hadloil their lives in the battle. This has a little of the 
prolixity of Homer, on thefubjeft of the deadand wounded; but 
the recital is not fo long. The courier adds, that he has yet de- 
fcribed but the imalleil part of the misfortunes of the flate. 

The queen, a little recovered from her firft aflonifhment, afks 
how it was poffible for the Athenians to remain conquefors, with 
forces fofar inferior. The meffenger replies, that Defliny prevailed 
over numbers ; that the vanquiihed had more than twelve hun- 
dred veiTels, and the vanquiibersonly three hundred; and that from 



fuch an inequality it might be judged that fome divinity, unfavour- 
able to the Perfians, had caft the balance on the fide of the Gre- 
cians. Here follows a fine elogium for Athens, becaufe it is put 
in the mouth of a foe. " Doubtlcfs, fays the queen, the Gods^ 
" watch over the defence of a city confecrated to Minerva.'^ 
*' Athens, refumes the meflenger, is an impregnable city 5 her 
" citizens are her ramparts.'* He then purfues his relation, which 
I have almoljt w;holly tranflatcd, to fliew what was the genius of 
war in ancienf times. 

" It was not Xerxes who hurried on the action. An unfavour- 
^* able Deity made ufe of a deferter from the Athenian army, to 
•* perfuade the king, that if he waited for night, the enemy's fleet 
*• would not fail to difperfe, and endeavour to efcape, favoured by 
" the darknefs. Xerxes, who did not fufped:. this perfidious ad- 
** vice, feparated his fleet into three fquadrons, to occupy all the 
" paflages. He even caufed the ifle of Salamin to be invefted> 
** that the Greeks might be furrounde^ on all fides." This is put 
into the mouth of Xerxes in the form of an harrangue. ** He knew 
*• not, adds the meflenger, what fate the Gqds had prepared for 
f ^ him« Mean time the night approaches, but the Greeks h94 no 
^^ defign to fly. As foon as the day appeared again, they made 
" the fhores refound with cries of joy. Terror and amazement 
*^ poflfeflTed the. minds of the Perfians, who- now faw themfelvc^a 
'< dif^pointed in their hppes. The Greeks advanced to th« found 
** of trumpets; and bending over their oars, made the fea white with 
^^ foam, and difplayed their whole fleet. The right wiAg fi-opd 
^ aloof, the reft followed, and foon were heard thefe cries from, 
" the midft of every veflTel. Hafl:en, brave Greeks, haften to the^ 
** fight; faveyour country, your wives, your childrai, the temple^ 
*^ ot your Gods, and the monunients of your anceftors. The gc- 
'• neral lafety demands your utmofl; efibrts. We anfwered their 
** cries on our fide : aU delays were now impracticably. The: 
•* veflcls mingled, apd ftrack eacji other, with dieir pcows arm-. 
^^ ed with iron. The battle was begun by a Grecian (hip, which. 
** tore away the mails and fails of a Phcenician veflel. The whole 
•* Perfian veflels fuftaincd the enemies firft ihock; but af foon as our 
*^ numerous fleet joined and entered the flrait, they were na 
*^ longer in a condition to fuccour each other.. They ran foul of 
•' one another: the oars were fliiveredin pieces, while the Greeks^^ 
•* wounded us on all fides. In a few minutes, nothing was to be 
«^ feen but an univeifal wrecks The fea was covo^ with the 

T H fe P E RSI A N S.* 151 

^ fad* 4^fls of 6tir broken fliips, and Ae dead bodies floated in 
«* hejps; cyen the flipre caft back its load of dead into the fca. 
^ ITteiVrfiatt^ fled in diforder; and were purfued like fearful 
«'. fiih by the Greeks, making ufe of the brokenjoars/and other pieces 
•*' of the wreck, to mafl*acrc them in their flight. Groans, cries, 
" and exclamations, * refounded far upon the waves. At length 
** the fliades of night put an end to the carnage." The courier 
adds, that ten days would fcarcely fuflice to relate all the misfor- 
tunes of this fatal battle : but, to comprize all in a few words, fo 
great a multitude of warriors never before perifhed in one day. 

Atofla liments this lofs. ** You know not half of it yet, replies 
•* the courier. Over againft the ifland of Salamih there is an- 
** other, which is called Pfytalia. There Xerxes had landed 
" with his whole court, and the flower of the Perfian nobility, 
** with an intention to furprife the Greeks, if they came to take 
'* refuge there. The Greeks, who were noW conquerors, made 
^' a defcent upon it the fame day, furrounded this body of troops, 
?* and cut them to pieces. Xerxes, feated on his chariot, beheld 
*' the flaughter from an eminence at a final! difl:ance. He tore his 
'* robe, and utering cries of grief, gave the fignal for flight, and 
** fled himfelf in great diforder." 

Here the queen interrupts the courier, by addrefling herfelf to 
the cruel Genii, who, ever fince the battle of Marathon, had de- 
prived the miferable Perfians of their reafon. She afks what is 
become of the wretched remains of the army ? The courier tells 
her, that almofl the whole fleet had periflied, and that very few 
of the warriors in the land-army had had the good fortune to re- 
turn into their country, after long wanderings and innumerable 
dangers ; that fome have died of thirft, others of their wounds, 
&c. Atofl!a acknowledges the truth of her dream : {he retires to 
offer libations to the earth, and to the dead ; but, as flie goes out, 
(he commands the Chorus to confole the king her fon, if he fhould 
arrive before fhe rfetutned. * 

The Chorus place before their eyes the general grief of Perfia, 
and begin a funeral fong of a very Angular kind. The couplets, 
which are of the fame meafure, and die fame number of verfes, 
according to the manner of Chorufes, end in certain places by cries 
and expreflions of grief, which reciprocally anfwer each other, 
flanza by ftanza, as by echoes. The fong concludes with la- 
menting the fate of a kingdom, where henceforward the royal au- 
thority, debafed by this difaftrous war, will no more be ntifed by 


152 ' THE P E R S I A N S^ 

thofe adorations fo dear to the Perfians^ and {o defpifed by the 

This a£t is very full ; and is therefore the prindpal one in the 
whole poem, as is likewife the third adl of the preceding tragedy. 
Thefe abridgments are fufficient to fhew us the ancient tafte of 
infant tragedy ; for Efchylus has always one a<ft> in which all 
the others meet as in their centre. It is worthy obfervation, that 
throughout the whole poem, the intereft goes on increafing, till it 
has reached its utmoft height. The meiSenger, for example^ 
who gives the relation of the naval battle, does it fo artfully, and 
by parts, that he always leaves fomething to raife furprife and cu* 
riofity. And this not only happens in each icene, and in each a<3:, 
but from fcene to fcene, and aA to a6b. 


Atofla returns with all the preparations for a facrifice to the in- 
fernal Gods. She begins with this moral fpeech : ^' My deac 
** friends, the unhappy fear every thing, and thofe whom rortune 
*' favours now, think fhe will be always favourable to them." 
The queen (hews that (he is among the number of the unfortur 
nate. She lays afide the fplendor otro)ralty ; (he comes unattend-r 
ed, without her chariot, divefted of all pomp, to the place where 
flie is to offer her facrifice^ while the Chorus fing airs fuitable to 
the public forrow. The queen exhorts the old men to invoke the 
(hade of Darius, that they may confult him concerning the public 
calamities^ The Chorus (ing, and the queen pours her libations 
of milk, wine, oil, meal, and pure water, with flowers. This 
ceremony has an air altogether marical, and fuited to the ftage* 
The invocations of the Chorus are full of energy^i all in thepraife 
of Darius, abounding in funeral images, and compofed of CQrre(pon- 
dent ftanzas, as in the preceding fong* This, according to all 
appearances, is the whole third ad, which con(ifts, as we may 
obferve, more in (hew and adion than in words« 


The (hade of Darius fuddenly rifes from his tomb. He appears 
with all that majeftic fweetncfs which rendered him while living,^ 
fo loyed and revered by his fubjeds. He addrefles himfelf to the 
Satrapes fijft : ^* Ye faithful defcendants of faithfid fubjeds, fays 
'^ he, dear companions of my youth, what calamity afflicts the 
*^ ftate ? the earth roars^ it opens wide : a namelefs hoiroi: feizea 

THE ff E H B 1 A N K x^j 

^ me at the fight of my wife ftanding iiear my tomb. Yet I have 
^* received her propitiatory ofierings. But even you are employ- 
^< ed in maicing funeral lamentations over my afhes* Why have 
^ you forced myihade from thofe dark regions from whence it is: 
^ fo <lifficult to return ? For well you know, the infernal Deities 
^ arc as greedy in receiving, as tenacious of their prey, when once 
^ in their pofleffion. However, fuch is my influence over thim, 
^' that I have inftantly complied with your defines, and preient 
** mvfelf before you. Say then, what are the misfortunes under 
^ wnich this kingdom groans ?'' The Satrapes, trembling at the 
fight of thisaweful mafter, who, dead as he is, inspires them with 
terror, are filent. He encourages them to lay afide their former 
awe and refpeft, which, according to the cuilom of the Perfians, 
they carry to the greateft heighth. Still they are filent : they are 
afraid to inform him of fuch dreadful misfortunes ; fp unpleafing 
is truth to the ^rs of kinge- Darius has recourfe to his wife : " Oh 
•* thou, anfwers flie, whom a favourable deftiny once elevated above 
^ the happieft of mortals, whence did it happen that thouihoaldfi: en^ 
^' joy fuch durable felicity? Thou haft equalled the Gods themfelves: 
*^ Ah, how greatly is thv fate to be envied ! Thou haft not lived 
•^ to fee the miieries of tny groaning country. In one word, my 
♦^ lord, Perfia is ruined-" " How? refumes the fhadc; by a pefti- 
•* lence, or by a civil war ?" Atoffa, ftill queftioned, and ftUl in- 
terrupted, fays enough to inform him of what had happened. 
** Ah, replies Darius, the oracles are too foon fulfilled. It was 
•* to my fon that Jupiter referved the accomplifliment of them, 
^ In vain have I implored the God to dd^ this calamity till a more 
** diftant time. When mortis haften to meet their ruin, Jupi- 
<* ter helps to plunge them in the black abyfe. My fon is punifh- 
** ed for his vain attempt to enilave the lea, and conquer Nfep* 
^' tune — Oh what blind rage ! what madncfe ! Alas, the immenfe 
«« treafures of Perfia will become the booty of die raviOier I" 

** The misfortunes of Xences, replies the queen, are owing to 
♦♦ the pernicious counfels of the courtiers. They rcprefentcd to 
*' him, that it was by war thou hadft acouired fuch vaft riches 
•* for thy heirs"; while Xerxes, fatisfied with enjoying them, in- 
*' fl«ad <rf* adding to them by the fame labour, refigned himfelf up 
♦* to trifling amufementSk** ** Fatal effeft of their reproaches ! an- 
«* fwers Darius; the forces of the ftate are now^exhaufted." He 
then artfully runs over the actions of all the kings of Perfia which 
preceded him, he being the eighth. He attributes the prefent 

Vol. II. X cala- 

154 THE P ^ -R S I AN »:^- 

calamities to the youthful temerity of his ion, and afcribes to hi^ 
^wn wifdom all the honour of the former profperity of the Perfian^^ 
' The Chorus confult him upon the prefent Situation of affairs. 
** Raife no more armies^ replies he, againil Greece.; for althougl? 
** you had one fuperior to that you have loft there,' the earth it- 
** felf would arm in favour of the Greeks." (He fays this, be- 
caufe many of the fugitive Perfians perifhed. for want of fopd.^ 
" But fuppofe, anfwer the Satrapes, that we (hould ftill be able* 
** to form a powerful army ?" " Alas, replieaDarius, even that whichr 
*' you have ftill remaining in Greece, will not return ; few, very fevr 
^* will rcpafs the ftrait. The oracle will be fuHy accompliflied.. 
^* Judge of the future by the paft. In vain has Xerxes kft a-cho*^ 
" fen army in Beotia. (Xerxes left Mardonius there, who periflb— 
". cd in the battle of Platea.) All the miferies that ar« due to raib 
•* temerity and unfuccefsful projciSs will fall upon them. The 
*•- images of the Gods profaned, altars.overthrown, temples razed 
" to the ground; all cry for vengeance. The Perfians areguility. 
^ They arc punifhed now, and long will they be punij(hed ; mif- 
?* fortunes upon misfortuQes ihall overwhelm them^ The fields of 
f* Hatea fhall behold fo many warriors fall by the Grecian fword, 
^ that ages to come /hall, by the vaft heaps of dead, be taught hov^^ 
f^ ill it fuits with mortals* to be proud. • Pride is a feed which/ a» 
^ it grows, produces ripening miferies,. and promifes a lamentable 
V harveft* Keep thefe chaftifements ever* in your view, and re- 
" member Athens and Greece. Henceforward let the king be- 
f* ware of deipifing the happinefs he is poilefied of, and of cnvy- 
** ing that of another. Liet him not lavi(h his treafujes in d^uc- 
." tive wars. Jupiter, who hates prefumptuous enterprises, is al-« 
*^ ways ready to confound them. And you, ye reverend old men^ 
*' who guide my foa'& unfkilful youth, teacn him> by your pru- 
•^ dent counfels,* no more to irritate the Gods by his vain arrogance; 
^^ Arid do thou. Oh queen, take the royal oraamente, and hafte 
** to mtet the king. In the wilcjnefs of his grief he has torn his 
" robes. Endeavour to confolc him :. he will Men to none but 
*♦ thee*, Farewel; I return to the regions of eternal night. Live 
'* Jiappy,. ye reverend old men,, in fpite of thefe misfortunes, en^ 
*' joy the remainder of your days, and remember, that all the riches 
^* of the univerfe are ufelefs to the dead." The fhade of Darius 
di£ippears> A to0a retires to perform his conoumands,. and the Chorus, 
which remain ftill filled with veneration for their fomier mo- 
narch, extol the happinefs of his reign in {prejudice to thftt of 


THE P E.R S^I A N S. 155 

Xerxesft whom they indiredly thafge with imprtidcnce, and la- 
toent his youth. ** Oh Gods, ciy they, how foon have our happy 
'^ days vanifhed for cvtr ! Oh Heft adminiftration in which we 
*• :fhared, when a prince, mature in years and wifdom, patient of 
** fuffering, irreproachable, invincible, equal to the Gods, gave 
** laws to this happy land: Then were we fuccefsftil in peace and 
" war : rail was proiperous at home and abroad : our triumphant 
^* armies returned unmolefted to their joyful country. How many 
f* cities has he not taken, even without ftirring out of the walls of 
^^ his palace !" Here'follows the enumeration of fhem, which I 
omit, as well as that of the kings of Perfia, aftd the places where 
the broken remains of the army after the battle of 'Salamin took 
refuge, that I might not load with diflcrtations a work in which 
tafte only is confidered. ' 

- Tl^is aft muft be ackiK)wledged to be a mafter-piecft. It is art 
edogium of Darius upon the Athenians, and> at the fahle time, d 
fatrre againft Xerxes, which certainly muft be extremeljr pleafirig 
to the haughty conquerors, who faw thcmfelves fo artfully praifed 
even hy their enemies ; and a great political ftroke of Efchylus^ 
who, by fo lively a pifture of the fatal effedts of pride and ambi- 
tion, tacitly diffixades the Athenians from continuing- the war- 
againft the Perfians. :The latter in efFeft offered to make repara- 
tion for all the ravages they had committed in Greece, and -after 
fo many repeated checks, feemed to wifh earneftly for a peace; 
The inclinations of the Athenians even leaned this way ; but The- 
miftocles alone determined them to carry on the war^ as we have 
already obfervcd in the .third difcourfe, in the firft part of this 

A C T V. 

' Xerxes arrives with a train, and an appearance fuitable to a 
king in his melanchoUy fituation ^ and indeed this aft is but ^ 
Continued expreflioii of his grief. . " Ah, how miferable am I, 
** cries he immediately, to have proved a fate fo cruel, and not to 
*• haveforefeenij! Barbarous fortune! with what violence haft thou 
** ftruck my wretched kingdom ! what ftiall I do, unhappy as I 
" am ? The fight of my orphan citizens freezes me with horror. 
" Oh that Jupiter had wrapt me in eternal night, with thofe who 
^« fell in battle !'* The Chorus enter into the grief of their king; 
and frankly own, that he has peopled the fubterranean regions 
with the Perfian nobility. Xerxes imputes thefe misfortunes 
wholly to himfelf, and the Chorus join with him to niourn in form, 
after the manner of the Perfians. This is done with fome kind of 

X 2 method 

ij6 THE "^E R sr:i a N y. 

method here^ and throoghout the whdk poehi ; for the oNT 
counfeUors qucftion Xerxes concerning the fate of die principal 
warriors (a numerousj and to that audience^ a moil interefting 
liil:) and the king has nothing but melancholy informations to give 
them. They anfwcr him in their turn with the moftlivd^ cxpref- 
. fipns of forrow. The king (hews them his cmjpty quiver, the poor 
remains of aU the preparations he had made for this war. He is 
ailonilhed that he full preferves a ray of readfbn. Their complaints 
ajnd cries increafe^ and Xerxes hinifelf &ts them the example. 
This is cxadUy Ae mourning defcjibed by Qojntus Curtius for thd 
death of Syfigambis. At length the old men, after beating their 
breads, and tearing their garments and their hair, retire with Xerxes^ 
and condud him to the palace. 

There are certainly great beauties in this piece. The diftreik 
fx^ndnttes riiing from the begiiming to die end. The charaders 
are well marked^ the fcenes are clear, expreffive, wdl conneded,. 
and beautifully unravelled. AU proceeds fo natural and eafy, that 
the fpedator feems not to be pre&nt at a dramatic representation^ 
but at a council of Satrapcs, who are overwhelmed with repeated 
accounts of calamities. Efchylus has tranfmitted to this poem the 
j^irit which animated him when hewas awitnefs of the defeat of 
jSxmt^. The plan, we fee, is very iimple : but if in our age we 
ihould write on a fimilar fubjeiA, it would be difficult to open th^. 
fcene in a manner more noble iat the continuance of the time^ 
the place, the entries, the exits, and the interefh of the perfon** 
Bages. And I will even venture to. fay, that in this refped great ad-^ 
vantage will: be had from Efchylus, .and.perhaps confider^le good 
will refult from the ipecimens which I have given, fince thofc who* 
love the theatre would probably be glad to employ thcnifclvcs 
in ftudying in one of the nobleft originajs of polite antiquity, thofa 
wonderful combinations of circumftances, of which the fketches 
they have feen here will difcover the original. And: even thojfe,^ 
whofe eftecm for the ancients is riot very high will at leaft profit 
by what the general confent of all mankind allows to be beautiful 
in them. If any oneihall obftinately reproach Efchyliis with the 
neamefs of the time in which the two battles were fought where 
he himfelf had been engaged, they ought at leafl to pardon him> 
in confideration of the great intereft which reigns throu^out \ 
tragedy which fills the audience with a malignant companion for 
Xerxes, whom they had conquered, and with whom they wera 
fUll at war. In Athens all was made fubfervient to the public 
good, even to the amufements of the theatre. 

A G A^ 

; A G A M E MN.O'N- : 

AG AKfE MN ON, king of Argos and Myccne, had pro- 
. miied Cly temneftra> that, as foon as he had taken the citjr 
of Troy, h6 womd informherof it by a certain iignal agreed upow 
between them. This fignal was a lighted" tofch, which was to- 
be phced upon an eminence, as a fign for all the neighbouring 
places to do the' feme, till ther Hght might be perceived at Argos^ 
This fig^! Agamemnon gave, and immediately afterwards arrived 
hitofafWlth Cifliwdta, niscapti\^e, whom he brought with hiib 
from Troy. ^ But Cly^temneftra, who was not fo defirous of her 
hulband's return as ot his death, murdered him, with the affiftancc 
of Egifthus, who was her lover. This play was firft a6ted under 
the Archon Philocles, in thefefcond year. of flic 28th Olympiad. 
; ** The Agamemnon, fays father Rapiii, is ahnoft unintelligible/* 
It nntuft be confeffed, indeed, that this tragedy is riot eafy to under- 
hand : for, befides its having been often confounded with the Coe- 
phores that followed it, and incorredHy printed, notwithftanding. 
the labours of many learned men, it is not wholly free from, faults^ 
«vcn in the ftate which Staiilei has given it to us ,• there are many 
metaphors, figurps, and particular tumS, which he cannot boat 
©f having explained.. It was Ais which made the famous * Sau- 
inaife fay, who had not Efchylus fb correiEt as we have him, '* WhO' 
** can prove that Efchylus is more intelligible than the Evangelifts, 
*• aod the eptftfcs of the Apolties ? Thi^ Agamerrmon of that poet 
f*' fingly exceeds in obfcurity alf the facred books, whether He^- 
^ bifew andSyriacicJioms/* . ' ' 

A C f L _ ^ . 

The periba employed to watch wbeir the torch is kindled Be« 
gins the poem^ He oipfidn ftailding {tipon i a fhtfotm^ oi the pa- 
lace,, and imploiJes the God^ to pot a 'period w Uie painfol taik 
which Clytmneftta had conitded tA him.- He %s> that he hat 
long h^ no o^r ibciety than the ftars;' bm that whar he has ob-» 
ierved in them is likely to be fatal to Agamemaoiir^ By this fuf- 
picion, he hints at the treacherous defi^ as of Clytemneftra. While 
he complains cff anemptoymfenc which affords him no other means 
^ alleviating his folitode than by finging, or by lamendug ^e bad 
admihifh-ation of the government, he fuddenly difcovers the exptA^ 

■ • a, Salm. de HdlenifticaEp. dcdit. 



ted ^^al, aod pce^rcs to -give the queet^ who is in bed^ imrne- 
dialc notice -6f wliat he had feenV Thus the time and placi are 
determined. The one tlie morning, and the other the entrance 
,to the palace at Argos- Before he. retired,. hc■IlMlkca^ known his 
j-efolution to take-part with his kihgj^ but this is all heiays, do|ib^- 
leis to avoid anticipating the events. The Chorus, which isformr 
ed of old men of tne council of ftate, enter without any preparar 
tion, but probably by Clytemneftra's commands. Thefc miniftcrs 
Icnow notning of the fignal agreed upon between the queen and 
Agamemnon, and the news of-taking Trpy. Their converiatioii 
iums' immediately upon this city, and the fiege w^ich they had 
never approved^ and had endeavoured to dilmade Agameirmoa 
from undertaking. " This is^ ikya the chief of them, the tenth 
*' year fince Agamemnon and Menelaus departed with their thour 
^' land fhips, like vultures, who, having loft their young, fly 
•**. round their nefls, in hope of puniftiing the barbarous ravifher. 
/' But alas, who knows what will be the event of fo, many battles! 
.^' Human affairs follow the courfe of deftiny, by which they are 
** regulated. In vain do we offer /acrifices to the Eumenides, 
;•* and weep, before theif altars; their ancer is never to be appeafed.'' 
. They dmare, that contrary to their inclinations, their age. had 
ke:pt theip fyo^^ the war, fhut im ainidfl: their towers. They enquiry 
of Crytemneftra,, though fflie is not prefent, what extraordinarjf 
^vents* had jinduced her to fendfor them to the palace. Accordingly, 
w? i^ufl conclude, from reading this fcene, that Clytemheilra had 
lent for them ; that fhe is fficn at a diftance offering lacrifices to the 
♦* Godsi The altars^ fays the old man, are pcrfuiped with libations^ 
*' the lamps blaze round them." Heintrc?|ts the queen to tell 
him the caufe of this, and to free him from the uncertainty he 
labours under; fince hitherto all the ppefages concerning the Tro- 
jan war had been as oibsn unfortunate as favourable* 

The qtioen ivbolly intent, aa it ihcHild fecm, upon her facrifice, 
makes no anfwer; and thdk queftions apf^eartpbe introduced 
here only to fignify, that the Chorus come to make enqijiries con- 
cerning the fiege, when fhe fhall beat leifure to liAen to them. 

The old men,, whp had declared that: they were not capable of 
going to, the battle, yet find themfelves ftroiig enough to fing a very 
ionghynmpponthe enterprize undertaken by Agamemnon. This is 
done in the manner of Chorufes, while dytemneftni is employed 
in th^ fiicrc^, ceremonies. It israrkind of prophetic funeral^fong 
' Vbtirdcn, which return s afterticertain num- 
4 ber 


berofvcrfes, *' Sing, fing funereal ftrains, but fortunate be the 
" omen/* This hymn cannot poffibly'W rendered into any other 
lang^agd, perphrted and niyftcrious. Aglsimemnon and 
Menelaus are there reprefented under the figure o? two eagles, or 
birds of , prey, which exprcfs their different characters. Tht two 
eagles tear, in pieces a rabbit big with' young, which they had takeii 
aft<jr a loBg purfuit. * The meaning of this is, that the two lead-* 
er$ of the Grecian army had imprudently bunted in a wood con-^ 
fecrated to Diana. *.The oiiended Goddefs^ continue the Chorus^ 
declared l^ will by the mouth of Calchas, who predidled many mif- 
foKun^a itP'the family of Aganicmnon after the taking of Tn6y. 
Thefe misfortunes are exprefl^d in a. kind of enigma, , which juft 
hints at die catafltrophe- of the play^ It is an: oracle pronounced* 
by^CalchaSi wbick the old men. repeat, without havings yet dif-* 
•covered the. meaning. This orack is fc^wed by another, whereinf 
Agap^mpo^ h conuuanded to facrifice his daughter Iphigenia tcy 
appeafe:I*>iana» and procure ^vouraWte- Winds for the fleet, which 
had been long detained in the port of Aulis. The facrifice which' 
iiicceeds/ is painted* with thoib bold and often aggravated flrokes 
for which ISfchylus is recaarkable. The Chorus introduce Aga^ 
meimioii fpeakijig ; he fluAuates like, afather, and determines liker 
^ king. Iphigenia is reprefeptted extended as an innocent vi<5timr 
upon the' aJtar ; and the tendernefs and concern which her youth,' 
her b^iity^ and her moving looks; excite in the whole army, are 
defcribed. **! faw nQraore^lays the principal fpeaker of theCnorus, 
** and I afltiTilent." : But he rfetums. again to the firll oracle pro- 
Bounced by. Q^h^^ the meaning of.- which, he declare|, he is' 
Qi3itl?ier;able nor willing to penetrate into.:. *?- Par alas, continues* 
^ he, why ihould we anticipate the melancholy future ? why 
*f ^ould we be miferabls before the appointed time ?** ♦ 
. He therefore contents hinifelf with removing thefe unforttmate 
prefages by: prayers arid wifhes. All tfajs Grecian doctrine of fata* 
Uty arifes frqm ignorance, but more efpecially froni the weaknfefs' 
of the human he^rt, which iecks».as.miiQh:as jpoffiblev tofupprfefs' 
the thoughts of thefe nFusfo^lanes which it fears. : This is what' 
Fy rrhus fays to. Oreftes^. * in the Andromache of Racine : 

* Seigneur, tant de prudence cntraine trop de fbin: 
* * Je lie f9ai point pr6yoir les malheurs de fi loin. 

L^ ' M « ' ' i ' , . I. r 

* Andromache,. Aft L Scene lL 

A C t 

i^f AG A ME M N ON« 


;^ Tiie At^tve counfellors, ;&elng Ojrteinncftrt approach^ faiutd| 
h^r refpoftfully> and aflc upon what happy exped:ations Ihe facri- 
^ces t0 the Gods. " Troy is taken, rq>lies d[)^emiieftra.'^ The 
Chorus 4ftoaUhed/ as may well be imagiiicd, at fiich unexpected 
iiewa, and ignorant likewife of the iignal which Agamcoinon had 
agreed to give, are under jbme difficulty how to believe the 
^ueen. £he tdlsthem the manner in which this intelligence ha9 
been conveyed to her, wliich was by lighted torches from ^ace to 
fpace^ front mount Ida to die gates of Mycene. She fancies (he 
hears the dying groans of the enemy^ and the jojrful (honti of the 
COOquerors^ who are plundering the riches of Troy. At length 
ihe wiihes that the army may raife no obftacle to dieir happy re- 
%vmt by An impie^ like that which had fb long retardtd their voy-^' 
9ge; lo thercity of Prianu <1 For ivengeance, adds file, will pui^* 
V fue the conquerors^ although they ifhonld hot have the ufual; 
^^ accidents of fortune to fear/' 

The Chorusy in gratitude to* the Gods for this cbnqueft, join in 
the facrifice offered by Clytemneftra, and fing a hymn, which is 
very different from the preceding one. It begins thus : "Oh fbvcreign 
f< of ih^ Gods ( oh favourable night, thou haft fpread thv gloomy 
^,* veil over the walls of Troy, . and involved all her wrctcncd citi- 
** sens in flavery/' The ode turns upon the puniihment which, 
fooner or later, the Gods inflia on thofe who are guilty of the 
enormous crinscs that Paris was* The rape of Helen i^ the moft 
ftriking pi^ure in this piece. *< Helena, fays the C3k)rUs, fled *nd 
<^ left us a cmel war, with all its att^dant horrors, to carry with 
<^ her inerititble ruin, as a portion to Troy. She fled in fecret 
^* from the palace of her hufband« Oh execrable crime ! -In vain 
^« did the priefts recal her, uttering thefe funeral cries ! Oh aban- 
<* doned palace! Oh wretched fovereign of this land 1 Oh violated 
«' nuptial bed 1 Alas, nothing remains of Helen but' a vain pic- 
** ture, which inceffandy awakens the grief and rage of a wrong-' 
^ fid hufband ; a huiband who adored her, and whoni (he quitted 
** to pafs the&ithlefs fieasL&c." The reft is full of the like images. 

The Chorus, notwithftanding their congratulations upon the news 
they had fo lately heard, yet are ftiU apprehcniivc that there may 
be no f ounda tion for theirhopes ; and tnat the whole city will be 
pufmfo coSimbTion T>y a laHe re^^^ 



ACT m. 

Hereupon Clytemneftra^ who is not yet gone off the ftage, 
proves the truth of the fignal (he had received, by (hewing the 
Chorus a herald, who arrives crowned with branches of olive. This 
man begins with adoring his natal earth, according to the cuftom 
of the ancient travellers when they returned home, and invokes 
the Gods of the country to be propitious. He afterwards addrefr 
fes himfelf to the palace of Agamenmon. ^^ Palace revered, fays 
*^ he, beloved 'afl^rlum, ye tutelary Deities, if ever you received your 
** king with joy, receive him now, after fo long an abfcnce. 
y^^ Agamemnon returns, like a bright ftar, to diilipate the (hades 
** of darknefs. Receive the conqueror of Troy. That haughty 
** city is no more ; her temples, her altars are overthrown. The 
'** harvefts of her fruitful fields have periflied. The elder of the 
** Atridae returns a hero crowned with conqueft : he of all mor- 
*« tals is moft worthy of our honours. The impious Paris is pu- 
<' niflied." 

Here Clytemneftra interrupts the herald, and holds a very art- 
ful converfation with him. She gives him to underftand, that (he 
has fuffered greatly during the abfcnce of her lord, fo far as to wi(h 
death. To whom ? This has a double meaning : her defign is, to 
kill her hufband, and raife her lover to the throne. The herald, 
who fuppofes her to have been very much afHided, confoles her, 
by recounting the fufferings of the army during a fiege of ten years. 
*« Who but the Gods, fays he, are exempted from the reverfes of 
<« fortune ! Ah, were I to relate to thee all our labours, our watch- 
*« ings, the mifcries we felt at fea ! not a day has paffcd without 
** groans and complaints. He then enumerates the fatigues they 
*• endured on land. But why, adds he, fhould we afflicft our* 
^* felves now ? when all forrows are at an end, as well with regard 
*< to the dead as to the remainder of the Grecian army. We 
" muft forget our misfortunes, Viftory is at length ours, and 
*• rewards us for all our loffes/' 

The queen (hews no inclination to hear more. She will retire, (he 
fays, to make preparations for the reception of her lord, and will 
hear from his own mouth the particulars of his conqueft. She 
fends the herald back to him, to let him know how ardently (he 
wi(hes to fee him. She adds, with fome tendcrncfs, that he will 
find her faithful ; and, what is fingular enough, (he fays this in 
(even or eight verfes, that he may not doubt it. The herald rc- 

VoL. II. Y plies. 

i62 A O A M E M N O K. 

plies, that it becomes a virtuous woman to (peak her own praifes; 
and the Chorus add, that the queen is in the right. Here is a fine 
fubjed for the fheerers at antiquity, who will not enter into the 
fimplicity of its manners. 

After Clytemneftra withdraws, ike old men continue die fcene 
with the herald. They defire to be informed of the fate of Mene^ 
kus. We loft fight of that prince's veffd in a tempeft, replies ther 
herald, and we know not what is become of him, not even whe^ 
ther he is alive or dead. He tells this with fome difficulty^ as not 
being wOling to prophane that happy day with foch melancholy 
news. He therefore concealed this misfortune from the queen : 
however, he now, in a few words, defcribes the tcmpeft in which 
the Grecian fleet was forpriied m its return. He flatters himfelf 
with hopes, that all the (hips which were difperfed will &fely' 
arrive, particularly that ofMenelaus, and ends with a wiOl to that: 
eflfed, which gives room to the Chorus to refume their fongs. 

Thefe begin with reflexions upon Helena, whofe very name 
expreflTes the miferies (he has been the caufe of; namely, the lofs of: 
the fhips, the deaths of the warriors, and the ruin of Troy. ** She- 
** carried a fatal alliance to Troy." The Chorus here play upon 
a word, which fignifies both alliance and misfortune. ** ohe has. 
^ revenged, continue they, the violated laws of hofpitality, even 
** upon thofe who celebrated this fatal Hymen with fongs of 
** gladnefs. The ancient city of Priam has paid dear for the: 
•* Short triumph } her chearful fongs are changed to groans and; 
♦* lamentations.'' 

The remainder fignifies, that Paris fo lovely, fo engaging, while 
a child, but haughty and prefumptuous in his riper years, carried] 
away Helena under aulpices fo horrible, that a fury formed the^ 
ties of this adulterous niarriage ; and from their crime a race re* 
fembling themfelves is produced ; impiety, remorfe, and defpair :: 
that juftice, with eyes averted, fled witn horror frwn the gilded^ 
domes of the wicked, and fought an aiylum in the chafl:e dwel- 
lings of righteous men, however mean and humble. There is 
equal ftrength and energy throughout this whole ode : but it will 
as little admit of a tranflation as the preceding ones, which is the 
fate of all the Chorufes of Efchylus. 


Agamemnon appears upon his car, returning like a conqueror 

to his own country* He is followed by Caflfandra, his captive, 

4 fixated 


^ted on another car. The counfellor of ftatc, who ipeaks for 
the reft of the Chorus^ makes him a kind of harangue, of which 
this is the fenfe : He tells him, that he is at, a lofs in what manner 
to exprefs himfelf, that he may not offend the laws of decorum. 
Flatterers, fays he, accommodate their words and looks to the ap- 
parent joy or forrow of their fovereign, without being moved with 
either of thefe pafGons : but a wife prince will not fuflfer himfelf to 
be impofed upon by appearances. He afterwards lays, that he had 
difapproved of the armament and the enterprize againft Troy ; but 
that lie now rejoiced at the happy event of it, and refigns the au- 
thority with which he had been inverted into the hands of his 
king, whofe prudence will loon difcovcr and diftinguilhthofowho 
have aded well or ill during his abfence. 

Agamemnon firft adores the Gods of the country who had fa- 
voured his return, and overthrown Troy. " Thefe Gods, favs 
** he, the juft arbitrators between us> without liftening to tnc 
^* voice of mortals, put in one bloody urn the lot of death for 
** Ilion, in another me hope of Greece. Troy ftill linokes, and 
^' from her alhes black clouds are ftill exhaled, the only remains 
^* of all her former wealth.*' 

After this fhort prelude, the king addreflcs himfelf to the old 
men, and thanks them for the part they take in his vidlory. ** It 
*^ is not often, fays he> that a fuccefsful friend can be had with« 
*' out jealoufy. Envy takes poffeffion of the human heart : this 
** monfter doubles the burden of his flaves, by adding to their mif- 
«* fortunes the happineft of others. Experience has taught mc 
** this. I fee, as in a mirror, the fentiments of thofe whom I con- 
^'-verfc with, and have fcarce ever found more than the diffembling 
^^ Ihade of friendlhip. Ulyiles, who contrary to his inclinations, 
^^ engaged in this enterprize, was alone fixea in my intereft, and 
*^ my true fupport. Tnis juftice I ewe him, whether he is alive 
<f or dead." He then declares, that after he has celebrated games 
in commenioration of his conqueft, he will apply himfelf to what 
•concerns the government of the ftate, and remedy the diforders that 
may have crept into it. As he is preparing to retire into his pa«> 
lace, Clytemneftra comes to meet him. 

The fpeech Ihe makes him is fufficiently long. After apologi- 

ling for what Ihe is going to fay, Ihe tells him, that (he will lay 

. afide that referve which infenfibly decreafes every day, and freely 

recount all her fufferings during the abfence of her lord. Solkude, 

anxiety, myftorioufi reports, unfavourable news, continual alarms^ 

Y 2 all 


all have confpired to make her miferable. She has even attempt* 
cd more than once upon her own life, which the cruel folicitudc 
of others has ftill preferved to her. She informs the king, that 
their fon Orcftes is abfent; that apprehending fbme fatal revolution, 
if Agamemnon had the misfortune to fall before Troy, (he had 
confided him to the care of foreigners. •'It is natural, fays (he, for 
** the malignity of mankind to crufh thofe intirely who begin to be 
*' deprefled.'' Her eyes, fhe fays, unufed to flumbers, but ever open 
to tears, have loft all their luftre ; even in thofe moments when 
Ihe but feemed to tafte repofe, a thoufand horrid dreams torment- 
ed her, and the leaft noife would rouze her drooping fenfes : 
but, at the fight of her vidtorious lord, all her affliftions were for- 
got. This fudden and unexpedted return filled her with more joy 
than a father feels at the fight of an only fon ; than the appearance 
of land to mariners long harraflfed with a tempeft, or a pure ftream 
to the thirfty traveller. ** Let us go then, my dcareft lordji 
** (purfueth ihe) alight from this chariot— Yet ftay ;• profane not 
*' tl^f^crcd fteps, the fteps of Troy's great conqueror. Let the 
" richcft carpets be brought hither : it is fit that a monarch who* 
*' returns triumphant into his dominions, fhould tread on gold and, 
" purple.'' 

This ftudied fpeech, which holds the place of thofe tranfporta 
of tendernefs and joy, with which tender wives receive their huf- 
bands after a long abfence, marks well the dangerous chara<fter of 
Clytemneftra, who has already refolved the death of her lord 5 and 
fhews likewife the infinite art of Efchylus, in making his perfons 
fpeak in a manner conformable even to their concealed paffions. 
For Clytemneftra, being upon the point of committing fo impious- 
an aftion, could not furcly be expedted to fpeak like other wives : 
and Agamemnon, although ignorant of the horrid conipiracy, yet 
perceives the afiediation and impropriety of this behaviour. He 
even obferves to her,, that her diicourfe has been Itmg, andfuitable 
to an abfence of Jo many years. " No, replies he, there is no neetf 
" of fo many preparations. Treat me not like a ftr^nger, or ar 
** woman, and ftill lefs like a God. Lay not thefe rich carpets on 
** my path ; a mortal fliould tremble to admit fuch honours, which- 
*• are due only to the Gods : nor are thefe trifling diftin^tions ne- 
** ceffary toincreafemy fame, or make my conqueft known." 

Here we have the contraft of an impious woman, or rather a* 
Fury,, with, a religious and popular king ; and the (peftator is dif- 
pofedto conceive compaflion for the oijc, and horror for the other. 



This artifice is ufed with great fuccefs from the beginning of the 
poem ; yet there is nothing faid which can give rooni for the crime 
Clytemneflra was meditating, to be'gueffed at. The event is al- 
ready prepared, fince every thing diredtly leads to it, and is not 
anticipated, becaufe the fecret is kept to tne laft. 

Clytemneftra, as if fhe would raife the value of her intended 
vidlim, preiTes Agamemnon ib earneilly to receive the honours fhc 
offers him, that he is obliged to yield to her importunity. After 
this little conteft of affeded reiped: on her fide, in which (he tells 
him, that it is glorious even for conquerors to fuifer themfelves to 
be conquered, the king permits his travelling robe to be taken off^ 
and puts on one of purple ; yet with a kind of fear, left fome jea- 
lous Deity fliould perceive him. As he defcends from his chariot, 
he exprefles his fcruples to trample fuch riches under his feet. He 
exhorts the queen to treat his captive Caflandra with tendernefs: 
** For the Gods, fays he> look with favourable eyes upon thofe* 
•* who ufe their power with moderation, and there is no mortal 
'* who willingly fuifers flavery." 

He extols the merit of this unfortunate princefs, who is the 
daughter of Priam, and had been beftowed upon him, as what was 
moft valuable among the (polls of the Trojans. He then relu(ftant- 
lypaflfes to his palace, upon the purple carpets that had been fpread^ 
for him ; and the queen, ftill continuing her affedred kindneis and 
veneration, tells him that the fea has inexhauftable ftores of purple; 
and that ihe, far from, regreting fuck a trifling Sacrifice, would 
have vowed much more to the Gods for the return of a hufband fo 
beloved : that fhe looks upon him as the tree, whofe kindly (hade 
will guard their houfe from the inclemency of the feafons. ** Great 
** Jupiter, cries fhe, concluding her Ipeech, accomplifh my wifhes; 
•* and what thou haft thyfelf undertaken to perform." A barbae 
rous prayer, which the credulous Agamemnon believes is offered 
up for him^ 

The Chorus, who remain upon the ftage, reflecting on their 
king's return, and this interview between him and Clytemneftra, 
are aftonifhed to find that the prediftions of Calchasi mentioned 
in the firft aft, inceflTandy occur to dieir minds, in fpite of them; 
•* It is an oracle (fkys he, who fbeaks for the reft) which was not 
*' forced by authority, nor purchafed with bribes. It keeps pof- 
•* feffion of our memory ; in this far different from thofe torment- 
•* ing dreams which vanifh with our fleep. I fee Agamemnon 
** again, andyet fome unknown Fury prefages funeral airs. There 

" i^ 

i66 A G A M E M N O N. 

" is a fccret foreboding in my heart, which renders it infenfibleto 
^' joy. Alas, the predi(5tions of a troubled heart are but too jujft, 
** Grant, Heaven, my fears may be found grouadlefe! Healthy 
•* however flourifliing, has its period* and difeafe glides unper- 
•* ceived into the human frame. The moft foUoly built for* 
'/ tune dafhes itfelf againft an unfeen rock. To ordinary calami- 
" ties remedies may be applied. A veflcl eicapes being wrecked, 
^* at the expence of its riches, which are caft into the fea. — But 
-*« oh, by what enchantment can life be reftored to thole whofc 
** blood has followed theaflaflins knife ? The reft is wrapt in the 
*' impenetrable (hades of fate, and my prefaging heart has antici- 
*• pated my tongue." Here, doubtlefs, we have fufpicions of what 
is to happen, very ftrongly marked. But thcfe are forebodings 
which have too little foundation to make it neceiTary to warn the 
king of hisdanger, tho'fufficient to preparethe fpeiftatorfor theevent, 

A C T V. 

Cly temneftra, having conduced her hufband into the palace, re- 
turns immediately, and invites CaiTandra to alight from her chariot, 
afluring her (he will make her captivity as light as poflible. '< The 
** houfe, fays (he, which thou art going to enter, has long flou- 
" ri(hed in profperity and grandeur. It isfuch only as^have late- 
*« ly rifen to unhoped for honours and riches, who make cruel acnd 
'* infupportablc mafters.** CaiTandra overwhelmed with grief, and 
in reading likewife in futurity the parricide that will be committed 
by the queen, keeps an ohftinate (ilcnce, which fo enr^s Clvtcm-- 
neftra, that (he retires, after having treated her with great rudenefs* 

A$ foon as the queen is gone, CaiTandra, with loud cries, in- 
vokes Apollo. At this the Chorus e^prcfs fome furprize. "Why 
<* (hould (he addrefs herfelf to thisPeity in her misfortunes ? (fays 
*< the firft perfon of the Choms.) Is it as a prophetefs, that (hq 
** invokes nim ? for it is well known that CaiTandra was one." 
*« Oh ApoUo, (cries the captive prinoefs) whither haft thou led 
" me? To a houfe polluted with crimes l^to horrid daughter!" 
Ca(randra, wc fee, enters fuddchly into one of her prophetic fren- 
zies. This pafTage was thought a mafter-piece by the ancients, 
but it is impoflible to give a juft idea of it- It is filled with the 
moft lively exclamations, perpetually interrupted by the Chorus> 
and with enigmas which unfold themfelves by degrees, and inaagefi 
inimitably beautiful. She recounts all the murcfers commited ia 
this fatal palace, beginning with that of the fon of Thyeftes. " I 

*« fee 


^ fte the wretched infants murdered, and their limbs ferved up 
•* to the table of their father — Oh Gods, to what new crimes 
*^ will this horrid palace be a witnefs! Barbarian, is this the treat- 
" meat thou refervcft for a hu{band, after wafhing him with thy 
«' own hands f Tht murder is refdved on ; the fatal blow will 
♦* foon be ftruck j their impious hands are eager to conclude their 
*• worlc— *-Oh Heaven, what is it I iee? a net furniflied by hell ? 
•• No \ it is a veil which covers the nuptial bed, and becomes aa 
^ accomplice in the murder of a hufband." (For Clytemneftra 
threw a robe over Agamemncm, as he was coming out of the 
bath, and then ftabbed him.) " Oh may an infatiate Fury pur- 
** fue her to death with horrid bowlings ? Of what Fury doft thou 
•* fpeak ? (fays the Chorus) Why thefe howling? ? I tremble with^ 
^ horror; riay blood. freezes in my veins/' 

Ca/Tandra continues. *• Remove the bull from the heifer : he 
•* is entangled in the net ; they ftrifce him \ he falls ; the bath re- 
♦* ceives him." It is the death, of Agamemnon, and her own>, 
which ihe thus defcribes. For immediately afterwards /he adds,. 
*• Oh mi/e/'able fate I my own too approaches faft. Oh why, yp 

♦* Gods, why was I brought here to lufFer it ? Ye reverend oli 

•* men, ye compare me to Philomela, who in fad accents laments 
^ inceflantly her Itys. Alas, changed to a bird, the Gods beftow- 
•» cd on her a pleafing life : but I am referved for ftrokes far more 
•• fevere. — Oh Paris, thy hymen has been fatal to thy family ! 
♦« Oh river of Scamandra! foon fhall I vifit the gloomy (hores of 
•< Cocytus and Acheron. — Oh unavailing efforts of my ruined: 
•« country, ye pious facrifices fo oft repeated by my father, what 
^ have you produced? Troy lies in afhes, and I die.'* 

Cal^ndra, tho' always interrupted by the Chorus, who hear 
only part of her predidlions, pronounces them with an aftion 
which certainly required an excellent player. The women *s parts 
were aAed by men ; and the Greeks being fine comedians, the 
effedt this fcene produced on the audience is not to be wondered at. 
At length fhe recovers, arid tells the Chorus, that (he is now going 
to fpeak without any enigma. She declares, that the Furies wiU 
never abandon diis palace : that Comus, die God of mirth and 
feafts^ will never appear there but deformed with blood, and al- 
ways accompanied by tfie infernal Divinities, (alluding to the 
feaft of Atreus and Thyeftes, and to that which Clytemneftra 
makes for Agamemnon.) That already theGoddeffes of Hell were 
finging the funeral hymn before the palace-gates. The Chorus 

. arc 

i68 AGAMEMNON, . ^ 

are ailonifhed, that a foreign princefs ihouldbefQ well acquainted 

with the hiAory of another kingdom, and fpeak its language. Caf- 

fandra tells them, that Apollo, who was in love with her, taught 

her the fcience of Divination ^ but that, after ihe had obtained this 

gift, fhe deceived the paflion of the God ; and the confequence 

was, that no one believed her predictions with regard to Troy. 

Virgil gives the fame account of CaiTandra. Non unquam credita 

Veneris. Again ihe is feized with a prophetic fury. " See you 

^' not, fays (he, thofe children feated at the gate like nodturnal 

" phantoms ? they were murdered in this palace. They hold their 

** flefh and bowels in their hands; horrible food ! which their own 

*' father devoured. It is in revenge of this, that a concealed lion, 

" bafe and cowardly, feeks the life of my mailer; for that is the 

'« title my cruel fortune obliges me to give him. Yes, this conni- 

*^ mander of a thoufand (hips, this haughty conqueror of Ilion, 

^^ knows not the (hares that are laid for him by an execrable mon- 

" fter, who is preparing to plunge a dagger in his bofom. Ah, 

*' by what name ihall I call her ? Is it a woman who dares to per- 

<« petrate a crime fo horrid ? Is it a wife, who (beds the blood of 

<* her huiband. No, it is a Charybdis, a Scvlla, a fury. Yet, 

^* with what artful tendernefs did (he receive him ! She appeared 

** rejoiced at his return. Ah, it was the (ight only of her vidtim 

" that caufed her tranfport. My predidions will not be believed 

*' here, no more than they were at Troy; but the event will foon 

^* prove them true." 

The old men, although terrified, vet pretend not to underftand 
fo clear a prophecy. CaSandra tells them plainly, " You will foon 
<' fee the death of Agamenmon." Who will the affaflin be ? fays 
the Chorus. CaiTandra replies, " that they might havedi(cover- 
*« ed who, from what (he nad faid." She begins then a third time 
to be agitated with her prophetic demon. This fcene is very ani- 
mated and interefting ; for in proportion as Clytemneftra pro- 
ceeds in her intended crime behind the fcene, CaiTandra points it 
out, if we may ufe the expteflion, to the eyes of the ipeftators, 
through the veil of divination, and in the raptures of prophetic 
fury. " Oh Apollo, cries (he again, what new rage infpires me ! 
•* a lionefs, in concert with a wolf, rob me of life. 1 was her 
*' pretence for murdering her huiband, and I am in my turn her 
« viftim." 

CaiTandra, feeing her death determined, throws away her 
(provvn aiid fceptre, the (ymbols of prophets* She renders back 



to Phoebus all his gifts : fhc fancies the God has ftript her of her 
robe, and that he now takes vengeance for his flighted paflion. 
'* But I fliall likewife be revenged, fays (he. A day will come 
" when the fon (hall wafli away the infamy of his father's death 
*^ and mine in a mother's blood. (She fpeaks of Oreftes, who af- 
" terwards killed Clytemneftra.) Why tnen ismydeftiny lament- 
•* ed ? I have feen Ilion perifh : I have feen her deftroyers perifli: 
** fhall I want courage to meet my death ? no, I fly to it/' 

The Chorus admire her fortitude, and endeavour to retain hen 
Caflandra, as fhe is upon the point of entering the palace, flops 
and hefitates. " This houfe, lays flie, breathes of flaughter." Yet 
fhe fixes herfelf in her purpofe. ** Adieu, O flrangers, fay^s fhc ; 
" I have lived long enough." She quits them^ after prefenting 
them gifts, to remind them afterwards of the truth of her prcdifti- 
©ns, and after offering a pathetic prayer to the fun to revenge her 

The old men, flill incredulous, cannot imagine it pofTible that 
what they have heard fhould happen ; but they are foon convinced 
of the unhappy certainty. They hear the lamentable cries of Aga- 
memnon, 'who is murdered behind the fcenes. He complains, that 
they have the barbarity to redouble their ftabs. The Chorus, of 
which there are two fpeakers here, terrified and amazed, are divid- 
ed in their opinions concerning what refolution is proper to be 
taken in the prefent conjundure. However, they foon determine 
to enter the palace by force; but Clytemneftra fuddenly comes out 
to meet them, with the audacious and brutal air of a woman who 
had long refolved upon her crime, and had executed it with deliberate 
cruelty. She is the Cleopatra of Corneille. Far from blufhing at 
her impious treafon, fhe boafls of having killed her hufband, and 
calmly relates the manner in which fhe accomplifhed her par- 
ricide, fhewing her hands ftill flained with the blood fhe had 
fo lately fhed. The palace-gates are opened, and the body of 
Aganiemnon is feen. Clytemneftra expedts that the people fhould 
applaud her for the deed, and gives herfelf little concern about 
tnofe who condemn it. " Agamemnon, (fays fhe) has drank of 
*• the cup which he himfelf had filled with miferies and horror.-v 
•* Yes, my hufband died by this hand, and juflice guided it." 

The Chorus treat heras an impious woman, who ought to 
be punifhed with banifhment at l^afl. But flie' reproaches herfelf 
with not having banifhed her hufband immediately after the facri- 
ficeof Iphigcnia* Such is the caufe Clytcmncflra alledges for this 

Vol, II. Z mur- 

i^o A G A M E M N O N. 

Duirder ; bcfides, (he is fupported by Eigfthus. Hence arifcs her 
iicurlly, which animates her to defy the people, and to triumph 
with the utinoil haughtinefs in the murder of Agamemnon and 
'CafTaiidra : for fhe had ahb facrificed this princcfs, under pretence 
tliat Ihe was her rival. 

The grief of the Chorus, who fpeak with great dignity to the 
execrable queen, and the pride and infolence of this queen, who 
confidently maintains, that her huAand merited his fate, are ad- 
mirably exprefled; " Oh, thou earth! cries one of the old men, 
" why was I not fw allowed up in thy bofom, ere I beheld my 
'* king, the great, the powerful Agamemnon, reduced to a vile 
•* tomb ?— -But ah, who will give him funeral rites ? who will 
*' mourn him ? Not thou, unhuman woman, who haft murder • 
** ed him. This care belongs not to you, replies Clytemneftra, 
** We have facrificed him : we will give him a tomb ; and, if w^e 
•* do not pay him the accuftomed tribute of tears, yet at leaft his 
** daughter Iphigenia (hall meet him on the borders of the ft ream 
** of forrow, and welcome him with tender embraces." Here we 
fep flie adds the moft bitter fcofFs to a crime the moft attrocious, 
as the Chorus juftly reproach her. 

At length Egifthus alfo appears, and in the fame manner boafts 
of what he has done. He declares, that he has revenged his fa- 
ther Thyeftes, who had uttered imprecations againft the Pelopi- 
des, becaufe Atrcus had made him eat the flefli of his own chil- 
dren. The Chorus Ipeak to him with the fame firmnefs and re-, 
folution, as they had before done to Clytemneftra ; they threaten 
him with the rage of the people ; they reproach him with his 
bafenefs, in making ii^e of the hands of a woman to kill her huf- 
band ; andpredidi to theiifiirpex^-that Oreftes will one day punifli 
the lover and his impious miftrefs. This feditious language, which 
produces no confequences,fliew at once the boldnefs of the fubje(5tsin 
that age, and the power of the kings or tyrants, who defpifed it. 
Egifthus, as a tyrant, appears to be mortified ; but anfwers only 
with vain^boafts. The old men cry out, call the people to their 
alliftance, and feem refolved to raife an infurredtion. Clytemnef- 
tra, calm andcompofed in themidft of her guilt, exhorts her lover 
to defpife thefe idle clamours ; and all retire. 

This tragedy was crowned, and at that time merited to be lb. 
The paflions are there carried to the greateft heighth, as well in 
the pathetic fccne of Caflandra as in all that follows. The firft 


A G A M E M NO N. 171 

ads feem to languiih, and are lefs interefling than the others. But 
they lead to the great end the poet has in view : they prepare us 
for the fucceeding incidents, and produce fufpeniions, which never 
fail of having a fine effed. In this play, guilt is only punifhed by 
the revolt and the prediftions of the Chorus : but this is fufEcient 
for thofe who know the preceding part of the hiftory. The re- 
venge taken by Oreftes upon Egifthus and Cly temneftra, his fren- 
zy, and his re-eflablifhment upon the throne of his father, are the 
fubjedls of two other tragedies, which follow this. We have fecn 
the former under the title of the Coepbores, in the firft part of this 
work. We fliall take notice of the fecond, after we have exa- 
mined the Agamenmon of Seneca.. 




O F 

S E N E C A. 

A C T L 

TH E fhadc of Thycftis, who rifcs from hcD, feeaks the pro- 
logue, or opens the fcenc. He appears only to declare, in 
exprefs terms, what is to happen ; that is, the murder of Aga- 
memnon, and thus takes away all the pleafure of the furprize j 
which {hews how greatly inferior the art of the Latin poet is to 
that of the Grecian. It muft be confefled, indeed, thatThyeftes 
fpeaks very fine verfes ; that he marks the place where the fcene is 
laid with great propriety; that he recounts all the horrid crimes 
committed by his family, in a manner which raifes horror in the 
ipeftators, and concludes at length with this beautiful verfe : 

*' Phoebum moramur. Redde jana mundo diem." 

** My prefence flops the fun. I difappear, arid Apollo reftores 
^< light to the world." But this cannot excufe the defed of anti- 
cipating the events, and by that means depriving the audience of 
the chief pleafure of the reprefentation. 

The Chorus of Argives enter immediately after Thyeftes is dcfcend- 
ed to the fhades. They give us a fine moral upon the dangers 
and cares with which kings are furrounded, and the ineflimable 
happinefs of a private condition. 

" Metui cupiunt, metuique timent,'' 

** Kings wiih to be feared, and dread to be fo.'* It is a feries of juft and 
ihining fentiments. , But to what docs all this amount ? Yet here 
is a whole adfc. . It is neceflary to obferve, that the Chorus of this 
poet has no refemblance to that of the Greeks ; but in the mea- 
lUre of the verfes differing from that of recitation, and that he does 
not divide them into Strophes, to be fung by the Chorus in two 
parts, as they do.. Thm o^ hM cmbaraiTed himfelf with all the 



THE A G A M E M N O N, &c- 173 

inconveniences of the Chorus^ without knowing the advantages of 
them ; or rather he is at little pains with either the one or the 
other, and his Chorufes are almoft always interludes that do not 
depend upon the poem. 

ACT 11. 
Clytemneftra, upon the report of her hu(band*s rcturft from 
Troy, enters, and exhorts herfelf to complete her infidelity and 
her crimes, to fupprels all remains of remorfe, and to kill Aga- 

** Per fcelera femper fceleribus tutum eft iter.** 

Nothingcan bemore in the fpirit true of tragedy than this beginning. 
She propofes to furpafs all women in guilt. " But no, cries fhe Jet us 
*' fly with our lover." '* Ah, rcfumes {he inmiediately afterwards, 
** thy fiftcr * has done that : a greater crime is worthy of thee." 

** Soror ifta fecit ; te decet majus nefas." 

Clytemneftra's nurfe, agreeably to the Greek manners, afks her 
miftrefs the caufe of her uneafineis; who tells her, that tormented 
at once by guilt and remorfe, fhe is refolved to have now no 
other guides but her paflions. The confident befeeches her to con- 
ceal her adultery at leaft j and here follows a conflidl of fcntiments, 
which is not without its beauty. This is the manner of Seneca. 
The queen, enraged at the remembrance of her daughter facrified 
atAulis, fays, 

•* Cruore ventos emimus, bellum ncce," 

And, among the pretences which (he induftrioufly feeks to juftify 
her defigh of killing her huiband, (he charges him with having 
loved Brifeis, and with his prefcnt paflion for Caflandrat whom ha 
is bringing to Argos. ^* Let us ftab this perfidious wretch, fays 
** fhe, and let us die, if it muft be fo, provided he dies ; death is 
** fweec, when our enemy foils with us." 

•* Mors miiera non eft common cum quo vclis." 
The fame thought is in the Hercules on mount Oeta, Aft II. 

** Felix jacct quicumque quos odit premit." , 

The confident endeavours to difluade the queen from this attempt 
by fear, by the horrors that muft attend fuch a crime, and by the 
ffa'ong^eft arguments her imagination can fumifh her with ; after 
which fhe retires at the approach of Egifthus. 

1 He 


jK>t without beaiityy but it is mifplaced. Agamemnon has interefls^ 
too important to fettle with Egifthus and Clytemncftra to amufe 
himfelf here with Caflandra : a fault which Efchylus has avoided. 
The other fcene of the Chorus of Argives, who rcfume their place^ 
and which makes the whole aft, is very fhart. It turns upon fhe 
jpraifes of Argos, and the labours of Hercules : a ftrange fubjedlit 
muft be confefled. 

AfC T V. 

Caflandra re-enters to declare plainly, that Agamemnon is fcat- 
ed at a feaft^ where he will foon lofe his life by the hands of 
Egifthus and Clytemneftra. She goes farther. The niurder is^ 
perpetrated ; and ihe defcribes it without feeing it. This recital 
is full of ipirit ; but Caflandra triumphs too much at feeing Troy 
thus fatally revenged. She is more moderate in Efchylus, and her 
prediflions are heard with equal incredulity. 

Eleftra, in amazement and terror, comes out of the palace with 
the young Oreftes, whom fhe faves from death,^ that he may one 
day revenge the murder of his father. Strophius, as if the word 
had been given him, arrives at that inftant with his fon Pylades.. 
Eleleftra confides her brother to him ; and he receives the child, 
with this fentence : 

" Pofcunt fidem (ecunda, at adverfacxigunt.'* 

He then carries him to his chariot, while Eleftra neither thinRsi 
of following him, nor of providing for her own fecurity. 

Clytemneftra now appears, ftained with the blood of her huf- 
band ; and perceiving Caflandra with Eledtra at the neighbouring: 
altar, (he exclaims furioufly againft the latter, and demands Oreftefr 
from her. ** Reftore me my fon, fays flie :" •* And do you re- 
** ftore me my father,, anfwers Eledtra.'* She ftcps forward to 
meet her barbarous mother, and offers her boibm to the ftroke oT 
death. Egifthus ioins Clytemneftra to reprefs the reproaches of 
Eleftra, and upon his threatening this princefs with flavery, ftie cries^ 
oait, *^ Give me death." " I would give it thee, replies Egifthus, if 
** thou didft not afk it." Such is the tafte of Seneca; that is, of 
his age. It would be beautiful, if it was not carried too far« The 
antitnefls is almoft every where predominate, and nature laid afide» 
The play concludes with a command given by the queen to poilbnr 
Eleftra^ and to put Caflfandra to inftant death.. 

This piece, in the judgment of the critics, can be ranked only 
in the fecond order of the tragedies attributed to Seneca i that is>, 
it has more of the poetlhan the philofopher in iu 


T H fi 



THE play which bears this tide is £o very extravagant, thit 
I do not think myfelf obliged to enter into a Arid: examina- 
lion of it : yet I ihall fay enough to give the reader a juft idea of 
it» that I may not be thought partial to Efchylus, by pointing out 
liis beauties only. 

The fubjed of the Eumenides is a continuation of the Coepbores. 
Orefles^ after having killed his mother, is pofleiled by the Furies, 
who torment him inceflantly^ Apollo, to deliver hiz^ from them« 
advifes him to go to Athens, and iniplore the aid of Minerva^ 
The Deity transports him thither himfelf. Oreftee iubmits to the 
judgment of the Areopagus, and is abiblved by Minerva. Such is 
the fubjedt in general : when we enter into the detail, we fhall 
find in it the origin and practice of a law of the Areopagus in fa-> 
voux of crimif^Js. This tribunal received its name from the God 
Mars, who, we are told by Paufanias, was the firft who was tried 
by it. It was alomgtime afterwards that Oreftes was judged there, 
under the reign of Demophoon king of Athens, as we learn from 
the marbles <^ Arundel, and not under Pandion, as is alTerted by 
by the Icholiaft of Ariflophanes upon the Waips. 

A C T L 

• The unity of place is not obfcrved in this play : for the fcene 
is firft laid inDelphos. But this is not what fbocks us mo^, as wq 
ihall foon find. Oreftes is fuppofed to be in die temple of ApoUg 
at Delphos. An old Pythoncfs opens the fcene, with a prayer 
to all me Gods of divination. This is a little tedious, but it 
is a juft reprefentation of the ceremonies of thcfe prophetefles. 
She feats hcrfelf on her tripod, as being ready to pronounce oracles ta 
the Greeks aflembled in the temple : a fpedtacle more ftriking tlian 
the verfes. In the back part of the fcene, and probably in the 
Vol. IL A a veftibule 

178 T H E E U M E N I D E S, 

veftibule of the temple, flic perceives Oreftes furrounded by the 
Furies, who are charmed afleep by Apollo. She gives a horrible, 
defcription of them i and indeed the figure they make mufl needs 
be very hideous, fince it is related, that when thcfe Furies awaked, 
and appeared in a tumultuous manner upon the ftage, where they 
performed the office of the Chorus, Ibme pregnant women mifcar- 
ried with the furprize, and feveral children died of the fright. At 
that time the Chorus confifted of fifty aftors : after this accident 
the number was reduced to fifteen by an exprefs law, and after- 
wards to twelve* 

The prohetefs, therefore, explains the fubjedl very naturally. 
She points to Oreftes at a diftance, (who does not appear yet) 
and defcribes him as in the habit of a fuppliant, his head bound 
with a large bandage of black linen, in one hand holding a branch 
of olive, and a fword ftill bloody in the other. At lengdi (he 
leaves the care of him to Apollo, who now appears with Oreftes. 

The God aflurcs him, that he will not abandon him ; and that 
he will deliver him from the perfecution of the Furies. He com- 
mands him to take advantage of the interval they afford him, to 
take refuge in Athens, where he will perforni his promife, and 
rcfcue him out of their hands ; for it was I, adds he, who in- 
cited thee to kill Clytemneftra. Oreftes, after a fliort prayer to 
Phoebus, retires, and Apollo intreats Mercury to conduift this fu- 
•gitive, whom he has taken under his proteftion> fafely to Athens. 

Scarce are Apollo and Oreftes gone oflT the ftage, when the fliade 
of Clytemneftra rifes out of the earth : fa fruitful is this tragedy in 
fpedbres. She calls the Furies with a loud voice to rouze them 
from their fleep : probably they lye extended on the ftage. The 
fhade complains of being negle<fted among the numerous dead^ 
without vengeance, without any re/burcc againft a fon who mur-» 
dered his mother, while flie was feverelypuniftied for having pro- 
cured the death of her huft)and. She fliews them the wounds wnich 
fhe received from Oreftes, and reproaches them with their flowaeis 
in revenging her. Was this the reward of fo many facrifices 
which ftie has offered them? ** What, fays fhe, do you fleep, 
" while your prifoncr, like a fawn, is efcaped out. of your hands.'' 

What follows is indeed flirprifing. The whole Chorus, or cMc 
the principal fury, anfwers only by fnoring repeatedly, which the 
author has very exadtly marked, fometimes more or lefs loud, ancjt 
in different tones, which makes it probable that the inftruments 


T H E E iJ ME N I D E S- 179 

lacprefs thefc founds ♦, as they exprcfled the groans and tears in 
certain other ChoruiTes; as for example, in the tragedy of The Per^ 
fiam. Yet, whatever grace they might give to this fnoring of the 
Furies, it will be readily allowed, that there is fomething very 
ridiculous in it ; at leaft it will appear fo in our age, although we 
have operas wherein laughter is put in rhime, and fet to mufic -f. 
After fome farther importunities from the (hade of Clytemneftra, 
the principal Fury begins to rouze from her flumber, uttering a 
cry, as if fhe was purfuing a wild beaft at the chace. At length 
fhe awakes, and wakens her companions alfo ; who are aftonifhed 
tp find that their prey has efcaped them. They lay the fault upon 
Apollo ; and are very much mortified that a young Deity (hould 
have impofed upon fo many ancient Divinities. 


Apollo appears, and with an angry air commands them to 
quit his temple, upon pain of being peirced by hi« arrows, fo as to 
render back from their wounds all the human blood on which they 
have feafted. He bids them fly to thofe parts of Greece, where the 
moil enormous crimes are committed; where murder ^^iHigj^ hideous 3 
where vengeance tears away the bleeding eye-balls ; where rage' 
ftones mortals to deaths impales them, and pra<£tifes all forts of 
cruelties. " Thefe, fays he, are your ufual repafts. The den of 
*^ a blood-thirfty liori ought to be your retreat, and not this temple 
'* of oracles.** However, upon tne Eumenides reproaching him 
with favouring an impious fon, who has murdered his mother, he 
exculpates himfelf as well as he can in a few words, and refers 
them to the fentence of Minerva. They leave him, fully determin- 
ed to profecute Oreftes; and he refolves to defend him* 


All on a fiidden the fcene is changed, and Delphos becomes 
Athens. Oreftes is feen proftrate before the ftatue of Minerva, to 
whom he offers up a fhort and moving prayer. The Eumenides, 
who, as GoddeiTes, can over-run the whole earth in an inftant, 
appear clofe by hhti, and difcover their prifoner by the fcent of the 
maternal blood which he has fhed. They declare to him, that 
they will long drink of his, without giving him the confolation to 

• The fame thing may be fuppofed with t Oh, qu'il eft beau, ho, ho, ho ! 
regard to the croaking of frogs, and the Qu'li eft joli, hi, hi, hi, &c. 
whiftling of the birds in Ariftopbane$,in the pg^^, i-amourAdeBKcliui. Aaii. Sc«en. 

third part of this work . 

A a 2 die. 


die> and that at length they wUl deliver him tip to PIttto» thatGocB 
fo dreadful to the wicked* Orcftcs cries, that be hai been purify- 
ed in the temple of Dclphos, by the blood of vidtims (bed in facri- 
fice for hini> and ftill more by time, which effaces all crimes. 
He tells them that he has juft invoked Minerva, and offer- 
ed her his arnv his fceptre, and his fword. The Eumenides re- 
peat, that be is devoted to them ; and that neither Minerva nor 
Apollo {hall fhield him from their tortures. In fign of their joy 
for having found him, they furround him, finging a magical andi 
infernal ode. This kind of hymn, full of the fire of Efchylus,. 
infpires a namelcfs horror. Many of the couplets conclude with a> 
burden, which fhew that this fong is a fong of the Furies, a ibng 
which fetters guilty mortals, and withers them with fear. Att . 
they fay tends to prove, that Aey are the executioners of juflice. 

A C T IV. 

Minerva defcends majeilically into her temple. She fees Orefles 
kneeling before her flatue,. and the Furies who furround him.. . 
** What is it you demand, feys fhe to them, you who refcmble nei- 
** ther the Gods nor mortals ?'* The Furies make themfelves known* 
to the Goddefs, and urge their claim to torment Oreftes ; but 
finding her determined not to condemn the prince,, without hear- 
ing his defence, they confent that fhe fhall be the arbitrator be« 
tween them and him. 

Orefles begins his defence, by declaring, that he was purified 
before he touched the fkatue, which he holds embraced: he then 
relates his hiftory in few words; he confcflfes the f aft charged 
upon him^ but juflifies it by the command of Apollo: he puts nis 
caufe into the hands of Minerva, provided fbe will take him under 
her prote<aion, and defires he may be tried by chofen Athenians, 
who will fwear to pronounce an equitable fentence. Such, ac- 
cording to Efchylus, is the origin of the proceedings of the Areo- 
pagus in criminal cafes. 

Minerva goes out of the temple with Orefles; but the Chorus,, 
diffatisfied with the beginning of a procefs in which they fee their 
vidtim forced from them, complain bitterly of this fuppofed injuflice.. 
*' If this afTaffin efcapes us,, cry the Eumenides^ all laws arc, over- 
** thrown. Mortals will grow bold in guilt> and how nany nfKi^ 
•^ thers may fuffer the fate of Clytemneftra ! — Who will hence- 
" forwards invoke our power ! what injured wretch will cry, oh 
*' juflice, oh throne of the furies !" All the refl turns upon this. 
I moral,^ 



mora], x;rhich i$ fimg by the Choms^ and fills up die interval of 
this ad. 

A C T V. 

Minerva appears again at the head of the judges chofen by her--^ 
ifelf. She commands the herald to found the trumpet for iko 
people^ vrho are fuppofed to be prefenty to keep filence. ApoUo^ 
follows her> and undertakes the defence of the accuied. Although 
this may appear to the readers to have a certain ridiculous air|. 
which brings to remembrance the comedy of the lawyers, yet it is 
a very ierious adtion^ as well as the pleading of Horatius before 

Minerva opens the caufe j and the principal Fury begins to fpeak^ 
not in a continued harrangue, but in regular interrogations^ which 
£be puts to the accufed, upon the fadt ; he confefTes it t upon the 
manner i he explains it : upon the author of the defign ; it is 

Oreftes interrogates Ae Fury in his turn. ** Why, fays he, did'il 
^ thx)u not puniih Clytemneftra after Ihe had murdered her huf- 
•♦ band ?'* " She was not conneAed with him by the ties of blood," 
^fwers the Fury, 

The fafts thus ftated and acknowledged on both fides, Apollo 
riies up, and, in juftification of Oreftes, deckres, that it was he 
who comAianded him to put his mother to death ; but adds, that 
all his oracles' are the decrees of Jujnter himfelf ** What, replies 
** the Fury, was it by the infpiration of Jupiter, that thou didft 
•• command him to revenge the death of his father by the murdei? 
•• of his mother ?" " Yes, fays the God ; for the death of an hero 
** and a king ought to be confidered diiferently from that of an iiu- 
** pious wife,** And to move the people in favour of the accufed, 
he relates the horrible manner in which Clytemneftra murdered 
her hulband and her king : " A king, unhappy in hafving cfcaped 
« death before the walls of Troy, to fall ignominioufly at home." 
This 18 the fpeech of a lawyer, who feeks to move the paflions of 
the judges in favour of his^ client. ' 

Here the Fury urges a fmall objedtion, which carries with it 
Ibme impiety. ** How ! fays flbe; does Jupiter, who threw his 
^ father Saturn into chains, condemn a queen for entangling her 
^ hufband in a robe, that (he might give himr the ftroke of death !" 
Apollo refutes this obje<aion,. by ihewing tine extreme difference 
between binding a Dteity and murdering a king. They infift upon^ 
the quality of a mother fo facred among mortals, that all thofe: 
who attempt the lives of their parents are held guilty of parricide. 


iH • THE EVM E N I D E S. 

He extricates himfelf friom this difficulty by a very fingiilar diftinc- 
tion, but which is received among the otfier Greek tragedians, who 
have wrote on the fame fubjeft. The faither^ he fays, is the true author 
of life to the child, and not the toother; who is no more than the de- 
pofitory of it. He takes Minerva herfelf to witnefs, who, without any 
mother, iffued out of the brain of Jupiter. He concludes, by promi- 
fing Minerva, that if (he preferves Oreftes,that prince and his pofte- 
rity fliall be always thefiaithful friendsof the Athenians,- and the al- 
liance between them fhall never be difTolved. This isaflxoke offtate-* 
policy, which Efchylus had his reafons for introducing here. He 
looks upon the Argives as the fubjefts of Oreftes. Almoft all tlie 
ancient tragedies are full of the like allufions, the application of 
which is concealed from us. We (hall be more fucefsfal in ex- 
plaining thofe of Ariftophanes. 

Minervacommandsthatthey (hould proceed to collet the fuiFragesi 
that is, that they (hould put the black (tones into an urn, in the 
manner of the Areopagites. During this interval, in which each 
of the judges gives his fufFrage for or againft the accufed> (he 
pronounces the law, which (he intends (hall be ob(erved in the 
trials of criminals : for this is the firft inftitution of the judges of 
the Areopagus. ** It is my will, fays (he, that this Areopagus, 
** this place which takes its name from Mars, and which was for- 
*' merly the camp of the Amazons, when they made war upon 
** Thefeus, (hall preferve the majefty of juftice, to prevent the 
•* commiflion of crimes among my people. Hence forward 
*• no new laws (hall be admitted : mine will be polluted by them, 
'* as water is polluted by the mixture of any foreign matter. Let 
** my laws reign over you, and hold the place of a monarch. It 
" is fear only that impels mortals to be juft. Maintain this tri- 
*' bunal, then, as the ftrongeft bulwark of your country: a tri- 
«* bunal which no other people can boaft ; wife, difinterefted, 
" ready to puni(h guilt, and attentive to the welfare of the citi- 
*^ zens. Such is the eftablKhment I have made for my favourite 
*' nation.'* 

The Eumeiiides perceiving they were likely to loib thecaufe, the 
Coryphaeus, or principal Fury, throws outfome malignant reflexions, 
to intimidate the judges. Apollo anfwersheri and both exprejfe per- 
fedlly well the animofity of two lawyers on different fides, while 
the fentence is depending. Mean time Minerva gives her voice for 
Oreftes, and adigns as a reafon for it, that hot having had a mo- 
ther^ (he is but little concerned in the murder of Clytemneftra, 



confidcrcd as a mother. She immediately commands the white and 
black ftones to be produced* ** Oh Apollo, cries Oreftes, what 
« will be the event of this caufc ?" The Fury, being equally uncer- 
tain of fuccefs, exclaims in the fame manner, and Apollo com- 
mands that the fufFrages ihould be counted with great exadlnefs, 
becaufe the miftakeof one, more or lefs, might be the occafion of 
the ruin or re-eftablifhment of whole families. Thefe, it is plain, 
are fo many hints for the courts of juftice in the age of Efchylus, 
and in all ages. The number of the black and white ftones arc 
found to be equal; therefore Oreftes is abfolved. 

Hereupon the prince, addrefDng himfelf to Minerva, *• Oh Pal- 
** las, fays he, oh tutelary EHvinity, it is thou who reftoreft me to 
** my country! Yes, the Greeks at my return fhall declare it. It 
*i is by the afliftance of Minerva, Apollo, and Jupiter, who 
*Velpoufed the interefts of Agamemnon, that Oreftes reafcends 
" the throne of his father. But before I afcend this throne, I 
** fwear to preferve an eternal alliance with this ftate. (Efchylus 
** here intends to fbew the union between the Argives and the 
" Athenians.) I fwear that no Argive fhall make war on Athens: 
<* if after my death anyof my defcendants fhall dare to violate the 
<^ folemn oath I have made, I denounce inevitable misfortunes to 
*' him ; I will render Athens inacceffible to hia approaches, 
" and from the bottom of my tomb will make him repent of 
" his rafh undertaking : but to thofe who honour Athens, and 
« faithfully obferve the alliance I have fworn, I will be ever fa- 
^ vourable." After this fpeech Oreftes retires, and leaves the 
Furies to vent their rage in complaints. 

Minerva endeavours to appeafe them^ by reprcfenting, that if 
Oreftes is preferved, their honour is alfo fafe ; and that he has been 
rather pardoned than abfolved, fince the fufFrages were found 
equal. She intreats them not to refign themfelves up to their rage, 
nor to execute their threats of laying Athens wafte. At length fhc, 
promifes them divine honours and altars in the city. The Chorus 
ftill irritated, repeat their complaints and invectives. They are 
Furies incenfed againft their judges. Minerva continues to intreat 
them, but with dignity, and mixes gentlenefs with authority. la 
this fhe imitates the conduft of Jupiter to Phoebus, when that 
Deity, enraged that Phaeton, his fon, was ftruck dead with thun* 
der, rcfufcd to give light to the world, 

" Precibufque.minasregaliter addit/^ 
She afterwards endeavours to perfuade them to receive the. homage 


i?4 T H E E U M E N I D B S. 

and worihip of the Adicmans. Some pafHon may be allowed Jto 
break out in tlie iiril moments ; but men muft be recalled by rea- 
fon to gentler refolutions. 

This fcene^ if you make allowances for the matter, is^ with 
refpeft to the paffion, well conduded. The Eumenides arc oon- 
ftrained to yidd to the ftveet, yet powerful eloquence of Ae God- 
dels. They propoie tlieir conditions; and Minerva promifes 
them> that a temple fhall be built to their honour, (it was that 
which was ftill {landing in the time of Efchylus) and that no fa- 
mily (hould be prolperous but by their confcnt. They, in their 
turn, make vows propitious to Athens, and are received among the 
Goddeffes of the country at Minerva's command. This ceremony 
is performed by a number of young girls and women of all ages, 
who condudt the newly adopted Divinities to the place dcftined for 
their reception. 

It will be readily acknowledged, that tlie rude, and in (bme de- 
gree, grofs flrokes in this piece, are very oppofite to our tafte, and 
even to that of dramatic poetry. But among thefe we muft not con- 
found fuch as immediately regard the manners and notions of the 
Greeks. The fnoring of the Furies, and that fpeftacle of hideous 
monftcrs, are abfurd. Yet, as thefe were Divinities revered by 
theGrecks, they viewed them with other eyes than we do : and they 
had ftill a ftronger reafon for being lefs fhocked than we are, to 
find Apollo pleading for Oreftes, and Minerva a^ing fuch a part 
as Efchylus has given her. All this was fuitable to their ideas ; 
and it is neceflary that we approach to them as near as we can, 
that we may not confidcr as [ridiculous a tragedy which we know 
to have intercfted the moft polite J)eople of me univerfe. 





THIS alfo is one of thol!e tragedies compofed by Efchylus, re- 
markable for the extreme fimplicity of its fable. It is the 
Ml ofhis which we have remaining. Danaus reigned with his 
brother Egyptus over Egypt. Egyptus made himfelf fole mafter of 
the kingdom^ and oblig^his brother to fubmit to his government. 
The ufurper had fifty fons, and Danaus as many daughters. Egyp- 
tus was defirous of marrying his fons to their coufin-germans ; but 
the Danaides were £o terrified at the propofal^ that they fled to 
ArgoSy with their father Danaus, to avoid a marriage which they 
looked upon as impious. Argos was indeed, in ibme refpe£t, their 
native country, fince the family of Danaus was defcended from 
lo, who was an Argive. It was on this circumftance they found- 
cd their hopes of being protected in that country. Pelalgus, the 
fon of Paletfthon, was then king of Argos, He thought it inhu-^ 
man to rcjeft the prayers of thefe illuftrious fuppliants, and, at 
the fame time, dangerous to receive them under his proteftion. 
Egyptus, it was probable, would make war upon him, and Pelaf- 
gus, as a good king, was contented with governing his little ter- 
ritory, and «inwilling to engage himfelf in the troubles of other 
kingdoms. His deliberation upon this affair makes the fubjeft of 
the tragedy which we are now to confider. The hiftory of Danaus 
and Egyptus appears to be very difi^erent here, from that related 
by the other poets. According to them, Danaus, after reigning 
nine years jointly with his brother in Egypt, was dethroned, per- 
fecuted, and conftrained to take refuge in Argos, where he found- 
ed the kingdom fo called : yet he confented to the marriage of his 
fifty daughters with the fifty fons of his brother ; but fecretly 
conditioned with the princeflfcs, that each of them (hould conceal 
Vol. II. . B b a poinard 

i86 T H E S IT P P L I A N T a, 

a poinard under her robe, and with it murder her hufband on the- 
nuptial night. This fcheme, they fay, was executed^ -only Hy- 
pennneftra Ipared her hufband Lynceus, who afterwards fuccecd- 
cd Danaus in the kingdom of Argos. Efchylus has not taken in all 
thefe events, yet he contrives to make them follow the hiftory he 
has treated, and to which he confines hi mfelf in this tragedy. In 
the editions of it, which are coihe down to us, the perlbns of the 
drama are not exadt. There is one inferted in the lift which does 
not feem to have any bufinefe in the piece itfelf. It is an old man* 
It is plain that he is a ufdefs perfon, and to him is given very im- 
properly fome of thofe fpeeches which belong to the charadter of 
Danaus, as itiis eafy to difcover by reading that fcene. The king 
of Argos is the fecond per&n : a herald, and the Chorusi^ compc^-^ 
ed of the daughters of Danaus, are the reft of the chara<3:ers. The* 
fcene is laid upon the fea-fhore, near the lifts where the public 
games were celebrated, and the ftatues of the Divinities who pre- 
fided at thofe games are reprefented there,, 

A C T L 

Efchylus, who was fond offurprifing his audience at firft with- 
grand and ms^niiicent fped:acles, here ihews feveral ihips iailing. 
up to the fhore. The Danaides land with their father at their 
head, and their attendants following. She who fpeaks for all the 
reft, offers up a prayer to Jupiter to be propitious to them ; and 
thus very naturally explains the occafion of their ftig^t^ and the 
fubjefl: of the tragedy. Their father is the author of the refolu- 
tion they have taken ; he is the head of the enterprlze, and the 
companion of their exile. Thefe are hymns of execration to the- 
Gods to whom they fly, and the Argolicregions their original country,, 
where they ardently defired to conclude their travels.^ ** Oh city,. 
" oh country, oh Gods, prote<3:ors of innocence, receive your 
** fearful fuppliants, and bury the ions of Egyptus in dife fca, ra- 
" ther than permit fuch marriages as afe deteftaUe to you !" 

It muft be here obferved, diat as they come in the charader 
of fuppliants to feek an afylum among ftrangers, they bear fymbola 
conformable to their condition ; namely^ olive-branches wreathed 
round with linen. All this firft ai3:, which* begins with the Cho- 
rus, as well as many mpre of the dramatic pieces of the ancients^ 
confifts of little more thah an abridged expofition, fuch as we have 
already mentioned. Efchylus givea this expofition in forty verfes, 
with an energy of thought and cxpreflion which it is impoflible to 

L inaitate 

TH E StJlP> L 1 A N T S. 187 

imitate. The accuilomed fong, which is here of a great length, 
fills up the remainder of the a£b : it contains only repeated invo- 
-cations of the Cods of the country by the Danaides, and a lively 
reprefcntation of their misfortunes. They begin with imploring 
the aid of lo, who had been changed into a heifer by Jupiter, tflid 
afterwards of Epaphus, her fon> from whom they derive their 
origin. They compare themfelves to the plaintive Philomela, a 
favourite comparifon withEfchylus and the other tragic poets of the 
Greeks. They refume the praifes of the Gods, particularly of 
Jupiter, by whom, they fay, all things Were made, which proves, that 
the Greeks had often very juft notions of the Divinity. ** Oh Gods, 
" the authors of our race, deign to hear our juft petitions, and 
^* rejedl thofe of our impious perfecutors. Mars himfelf beftows 
" on thofe who efcape from battle a (belter reverenced by the 
** Gods. To Jupiter we owe an undivided heart : his ways are im- 
" penetrable : his rays illuminate every place, and darknefs widi 
'< nim is light ; yet are not the various accidents of life lefs hid 
^* from us. He nods his awefiil head, and his decrees are execut- 
«^ ed. He from the Heaven of Heavens beholds the impious." 

All that is here iaid by the t)anaides exprefs in the moft lively 
manner imaginable, as weU the vovtrs they make to avoid the fons 
t>f j^gyptus, as the horror they have to an alliance with them : for 
they rdfolve, if neither Gods nor men will have pity on theAi, and 
protect them againft the violence with which they are threatened, 
that they will have recourfe to de^h,. and feek in the ihades that 
^Uylum which was denied them on earth. 


After thdepathetick invocations, Danaus tells his daughters, tha^ 
it is now time tx> coniider in what manner diey ihall addre& the 
Argives. He perceives at a- diilance a cloud of duft, and by degrees 
-difcovers that it is occafioned by a body of armed men. Immedi* 
lately he hears the found of chariots* We fhall foon, fays he, be 
' environed with a whcJe nation,, who either come with benevolent 
intentions, to inquire into the caufe of our arrival, or elfe with a 
deiign to put us to death. He therefore advifes his daughters to 
^place themfelves near a ^oup of ilatues,. which he knows to be 
thofe of the Divinities that prefide over Ae public fports. " An 
** altar, fays he, is a fafer bulwark than towers. It is a huckler 
'^ which cannot be ^eirccd. Take thefe olive-branches, fo favour* 

ed by Jupiter; crown them with white fillets:, bear them in 

Bb » ^*your 


l88 the suppliants. 

" your hands with religious awe, and ipeak with that Kumility 
** which is becoming to ftrangers. Yet you may freely declare^ 
" that your flight is not criminal, and that your hands ars not pol- 
" luted with blood. Let your words, your looks, and your whole 
" air, breath modefty and gentlenefs. Take care that you do not 
•« begin firfV, or make long fpeeches : nothing is more odious*. 
** Remember to be fubmiflrve and complajfant. You are ftrangers^ 
*^ you come to implore protedion : in fueh a fituation, to raife 
*' your voices, and to fpeak with confidence, fuit not you." 

The Danaides, like trembling doves at the fight of the vulture, 
as Efchylus defcribes them, inftantly fly to the protedion of the 
altars, where they invoke the Deities revered there, Jupiter, Apollo, 
Neptune, and Mercury. 


Mean time the cloud diiperfes, theiittlearmy^ approaches, and 
Pelafgus appears fiirrounded with the principal Argives his fiib- 
jedls. He accofts the Danaides, enquires the name of their coun- 
try, and the meaning of thofe fymbols which they bear fii 
their hands. He tells them, in anfwer to their queflions, that 
he is king of Argos ; he defcribes his dominions, and names 
his predeceflbrs, almoft in the fame manner as Homer's heroes in 
the Biad. This fhews us the manner of the ancients ; but wecan-* 
not excufe it, either through judgment or caprice, on their fide or 
ours. After this fhort narration, he requires them, in their turn, 
to give hrm a faithful and fiiccindt account of their fituation and 
their defign. They declare, that they are Argives by defccnt; and 
Pelafgus, by frequent queftions, obliges them to relate particular- 
ly, how they trace back their origin to lo, what was the adven- 
tures of the daughter ot Inachus, and in what manner flic arrived 
at Memphis? The Danaides add, that lo brought Epaphus into 
the world; that Epaphus was the father of Relus, and Danaus; 
their father, was the fon of Belus. They then proceed to the true caufe: 
of their voy a^e;[from Egypt to Argos, which is the fear ofbeing com- 
pelled to wed their coufin-germans ; and they implore the proteftion? 
of Pelafgus againft the violence of their lovers. " Relpeft, fay they, 
'* thefe branches with which we have crowned the altars of thy 
*« Gods. Refpeft Jupiter, who efpoufes the caufe of fuppliants.'* 
AH the remaining part of thefe fuppUcations i$ very beautiful and 

But Pelafgus is greatly perplexed. Shall he give an afylum to 
thefe unfortunate princeffes ? That will be to expofe hi^ people to 



an anavoidablc war, againft princes fornudable by their numerous 
forces, and ftill more by the rage of flighted love. Shall he rejeft 
the prayers of fuppliants, fo facred among mankind ? His heart 
cannot confent to fuch cruelty, which would draw upon him the 
vengeance of the Gods *, with which they threaten him, in cafe 
he refufes them his protedkion. Every motive of religion that en- 
forces the pradice of humanity, had great efficacy with the ancient 
pagans. With them, to violate the laws of hofpitality, to deny 
fuppliants, who had no other arms than their diftre(s, humble in- 
treaties, and branches of olives, were crimes which attacked the 
Divinity himfelf. Natural reli^on^: although disfigured by fuper- 
ftition, reigned among them in ztl its force, and made religious 
duties of thofe prcfcribed by humanity* This irrefblution of Pe- 
lafgus is the. hinge upon which the whole fimple fable of this tra- 
gedy turns ; and whoever will be at the pains to examine it with- 
out prejudice, muft acknowledge, that the fituation of theDanaides 
perfecuted by their ravifhers, and that of the king of Argos, con- 
fidering them with refpedt to their age, and to an Athenian audr^ 
cnce, were happily contrived to move the paffions, and were iuited 
to their ideas and interefts of ftate. This fceneis very long, but 
full of nature, and as intereffing to them, as it is cold and indiffe- 
rent to us. In proportion as the fuppliants prefs the king, he feels 
himfelf agitated by two different emotions : one arifes from com- 
paflion towards perfons in diftrefs, or rather from a fentiment of 
religion, which requires him to relieve them : the other from po- 
licy, the interefts of his kingdom being conerned ; fo that fomer 
times he refolves as a king, fometimes as a man. Now he rejefts 
the prayer of the Danaides, and now he comforts them with hope, 
ftiU fluduating between policy and compaffioa. 

The refblution he fixes on at laft, is to go and confult the people, 
and either to grant or refufehis protedion to the princeffes as tney 
ihall determine. In vain do the Danaides attempt to move him by 
the zSt&ing eloquence of theip tears. He is contented with con- 
£)ling them; but will do nothing of himfelf. In a word, he re- 
fers them to the determination of the people, yetnot without fuf- 
feringgreatly from his tendemefs and compaffion. FortheprincefTesi 
thus left by him in uncertainty, declare, that if he has the barba-' 

• <* To injure fuppliants (fays Plato, in «' ftrangcrs or citizens. God himfelf is their: 
his fifth book of laws) is.the moil attro- *^ guard and revenger.^' 
cious crime that can be committed againft 


rity to refufe them his proteftiotu ihey will, as their laft rdbatcfty 
find an afylum in a voluntary death. An odious circumffance 
for the Athenians. This is exprcffed widi great fimplicity. **Doft 
** thou know, fay they, to what we will havp rcfourcc ?" They 
leave the kkig to gueis their delfign } afterwards they (hew him their 
girdles, telling him> that l^ey will make a new ornament for 
thofe Deities> whom they have already adorned with their fillets < 
and what ornaments ? they intend to hang themfdves on the f^a- 
tues. In that age» this was the method of fuidde ; and may ap^ 
pear ridiculous to fuch as will not enter into the manners of anti- 
qutty, as well as the deaths of Jocafta andPhedra^ who are both 
made to hang themfelves^ in Soj^ocles and Euripul^. But why 
ihould this appear ridiculous } Every age and every country has its 
peculiarities ; and befides, all confifts in the manner o£ exprefOng 
things. How has Racine managed this circumftance» with regard 
to Monimia? He has been true to the hiffaorv> and has ventured, 
before a French audience^ to foUow Plutarcn, in ihewing Moni«* 
inia^ refolved to make «fe of die royal ffflet^ to &>an die fata! 
knot that was to put an end to her hfe. 

" Et toi, fatal tiflu, malhereux diad^e, 

** Inftrument & ti^moin de toutes mes douleurs, &C.'' 

This is the very thing $ or rather it is the thing my Idngen The 
dignity of expreilion reconciles us to the pidbire which it draws% 
All depends upon the expreffion 5 it is by this that the fecret has 
been foimd of making the ancients in a high degree venerable or 
contemptible, though the firft is lefs eafy than the fiscond : fi^r 
the fublime borders nearly upon the ridiculous ; and vety ofiDen the 
majefty of an image, or the force of a thought, will raife our admi^^ 
ration^ which being changed, by altering or diiplacing a few 
words, or a few accents of the voice, will make thofb buril: with 
laughter, whom before it melted with tears. This fbems to be 
the true art of parody. A burlefque imitation is more ftrcm^y felt, 
and more fully enjoyed, in proportion as the original has more 
real beauty and true gr^atnefs. Our ^f*-love is unwilling to grant 
applaufe, and gladly compenfates tke pain of fraiie^ by the plea«^ 
fure of derifion. This thought would carry us too fkr» if we were 
to apply it to the ancients. Let us then go on with, the icheme ef 
the Suppliants. 

Pelaigus, thrown into a new perplexity by the intreaties of Da* 
maust to &cure him an afylum at leail, determines to fend him inte 



due city, cfcorted by fame of his troops, *• Follow mc, fays he, 
** old man, thou who art the father of thefe princefles, come, and 
** bear thefe branches to all the altars in the city, that the whole 
** people may know of thy arrival, and theprotedlionthouhaftfoli- 
** cited of us. Thus fhall 1 prevent their murmurs againftmy con- 
" duft : for tjie people are ever ready to blame theaftions of their 
*' fovereigns. Perhaps the hatred the citizens will neceflarily en- 
** tertain againft the unjuftlovers of the princefles will be improved 
*^ into compaflion for their misfortunes." Danaus departs, and 
the king removes the fears of the Danaides, by afliiring mem, that 
lie will omit nothing to fecure them againft the violence they are 
apprehenfive of. 

Meantime, knowing that Egyptus and his^ are fent in pur- 
fuit of them, they offer up a thoufand prayers to heaven, to pre- 
vent the confequences of it. They recal to remembrance the wan- 
derings of lo, her adventures, and the loves of Jupiter. His for- 
mer paffion for lo gives new energy to their prayers, and animates 
their hopes. Will this Deity abandon princeiles, who are defcend- 
edfrom ner he loved ? They repeat thofe praifes of Jupiter, which 
I have already mentioned. He, they fay, is the author and difpo- 
fer of all things : his power he derives from himfelf alone -, he 
knows no other fovereign : he with a fingle word does all that 
his wifdom luggefts him to do. Such are the praifes of the Divi- 
nity, with which this whole piece is filled, and this makes the 
third interlude. 


Danaus returns, and brings his daughters happy news. The 
people have liAened to his intreaties, and by a decree, taken the 
iuppliants under their protedtion. He relates to them the manner 
in which this was cffeftcd^ ^ The Argives,* fays he, were not 
•* divided in their fentiments. The air refounded with their un- 
«« animoufl acclamations in onr favour. We (hall be received in 
^ Argos as free perfons, who have a right to demand an afylum 
^ there. We fliall not be conducted te th^ city as captives i and 
^ if Egyptus feeks to recover na, by making war upon Apgos, the 
*^ people require, thzt all- thofe who refufe to aflift her adopted 
^ citizens, fliall be condemned to baniihment as infamous. It 
«* was the king himfelf who infpired them with thefe favourable 
** fentiments, and diluted die decree. He threatened them with 
" the vengeance of Jupiter, the protedor of fuppliants. Thefe 
/* branches^ faid he> which are upon our walls and gates, will 

•^ reproach 

19a T H E S U P P L I A N T S. 

" reproach us with our barbarity, and prove an inexhauftible 
*' fource of miferies to us, &c." ^ 

The Danaides, iti acknowledgment of fo fignal a favour, fing 
in chorus a hymn full of happy wifhes for the Argives, their hene^ 
fadors. It was ufual to make fuch vows when received into a fo- 
reign country. We fee the fame cuftom obferved in the Eumeni- 
des, Thefe Goddeffes, when they accepted a temple in Attica, 
formed the fame favourable wiflies for the people. Thofe of the 
Danaides are the fubjedt of a cantata, which might pafs for a noble 
ode, in the manner of Pindar, and the ancient Hebrews, were it 
poflible to preferve its beauty and grandeur in a tranllation. The 
following paiTages make part of it. 

^* Ye Gods, the ofFspripg of great Jupiter, hear the prayers we 
" offer up for this peopjie. Oh^ never may Mars, the cruel, the 
" relentlefs Mars, y/ho^ like a reaper, mows down whole nations^ 
" confume the Argives with the flames of war, fince in our dif- 
" trefs we have found -favour in the eyes of thefe citizens; fince 
" they have reipefted Jupiter's fuppliants, never may Argos be 
" depopulated by plagues, and her fields ftrewed with dead bodies; 
" never may her youth be cut oflTlike tender flowers ! — May the 
'* altars be always crowded with the reverend aged, to implore the 
*« afllftance of Jupiter in the government of the fl:ate ! And thou, 
** oh Goddefs, who prefideft over chijd-birth, be favourable to the 
" Argive matrons, and give a race of princes to this country wor* 
'* thy to rule over her," &c. 

The Chorus afterwards invoke Apollo in favour of the youth, 
the father of the Gods for the fertility of the land, the Mufes and 
the GoddeflTes for public joy, &c. 

Thefe fongs are interrupted by Danaus, who fees a veflfel cutting 
the waves ; he perceives the pavilion, and the ornaments of it, 
and the barks which follow it. In a word, he informs them, that 
the fleet of the enemy is approaching. He encourages his daugh- 
ters, who tremble at the fight. - Argos has declared for them, why 
(hould they fear their enemies ? The contraft between the terror of 
thefe young girls, and the folicitude of -the father to comfort and en- 
courage them, makes the whole adlion of this fc*enc. The father 
propoies to go to the city, and bring fuccours from thence^ his 
daughters will not confent to his leaving them. The ftiips draw near ; 
what can they do without him ? how oppofe thofe impious wretches, 
who will pay no regard to the facred aiylum where they have taken 

3 ^* Calm 



** Calm thcfc fears, refumes Danaus : the cautious foe neither 
** can nor dare land here immediately. We fliall have time enough 
** to receive afliftance. Do you implore the Gods, while I haften 
" to inform the Argives of our enemies approach." He inftantly 
takes his way to the city, and leaves the trembling princeffes> 
who abandon themfelves wholly to their fears: already they 
think themfelves loi^. Whither fliall they fly ? where conceal 
themfelves ? They would diiperfe, and vanifli out of fight, like the 
imoke which mixes with the clouds ; but whatever happens, they 
will rather perifli than marry their perfecutors. They will become 
the prey of birds. Death appears lefs horrible to them than this 
detefted marriage. In proportion as their enemies difembark> they 
redouble their cries and prayers. 

A C T V. 

While they are under this conftemation and terror, a herald 
comes up to them, and, without any prelude, prefles them to go 
on board the vefleL The Danaides caft forth lamentable cries, 
and the herald carries his infolence fo far, as to threaten that he 
will drag them to the fliip. They exclaim againft this violence ;^ 
they load the cruel raviflier with imprecations, andatteft the Gods, 
from whofe protedtion he would force them. This impious herald 
will acknowledge no Grecian Divinities, he tells them. " Oh Ju- 
<* piter, cry the Danaides, thy altars are to us a retreat as weak 
' *^ and infecure as the nets of the vileft infedts. Inftead of being 
'* our fan<ftuary, they aggravate our misfortunes. ^ Oh earth, oh 
" thou common mother, refound with our difl:refsful cries !'^ 
" Follow me, fays the herald; I know not the Gods of this coun- 
" try : it is hot to them that I owe my life, and that old age to 
" which I have reached." 

Pela^us at this moment fortunately arrives with his whole courts 
followed by Danaus, and is a witnefs of the herald's violence, who 
has already feized one of the princeflTes by the hair; and enraged 
at this infolence, '*. What art thou doing, fays he to him ? How I 
" haft thou dared to ofier fuch an infult to this country ?" The 
herald alledges that he has a right to aft thus; and that he only 
claims what belongs to his maftcr. He denies that he violates the 
laws of hofpitality, and complains, that thofe laws are violated with 
regard to him. " No, replies the king, I do not obferve them 
" with fuch as contemn the Gods.'' *' Well, mfiimes the herald, 
" fpeak thus tothe fons ofEgyptus." And he immediately declares 
war againft him, if he refufes to deliver up the Danaides, 
. VoL-IL Cc The 

194 T H E S U P PL I A NT B. 

The king, with the conctrrrcitcc of the principal chlztns, de- 
clares, that the princefics were under his proteiftion. He 
difmiffes the herald with fcom, and commands him to carry back 
that anfwer to his maftcr. «* But do you, fays he to the Dan aides, 
" enter the city with your attendants ; ouf towers will fecure you 
** from the attempts of your ravifhers.'* He kaves it to their 
choice, either to refide in his palace, or in fome other man- 
fion, where they will be retired, and in fafety. The pfinccfles, 
overwhelmed with fo many inftances of generofity, thank Pclaf- 
gus, and intreat him not to be difplcafed, if they refer the choice 
of their place of refidence to Danaus their father, Danaus, after 
expreffing his acknowledgtrtent to the king atKi the citizens, who 
have juft given him guards to fecure him from any attempts of his 
enemies, leaves his daughters the liberty of accepting the king's of- 
fer of his palace for their refidence, or that which is offered them 
by the citizens. But he particularly exhorts them to avoid giving 
the leaft ftain to that virtue which they have fo happily preferved 
from the impious paffion of their lovers, that their enemies may 
not enjoy the malicious fatisfadion of having anything to reproach 
them with. 

The Chorus anfwer as they ought to diis paternal caution. Hence- 
forwards they will forget the fliores of the Nile, and only celebrate 
in tiieif fongs thofe of Afgos. They put themfclves under the 
protedtiort of the chafte Diana, and feel themfclves capable of rc- 
fifting all the attacks of love. But they cannot prevent fome 
feftrs from rifing in dieir tttind, when taey reflefl: on the war 
which threatens them. Here the Chorus aivide into two Semi- 
chorufles, that is, one of the Dahaides convcrfes with the Coiy- 
phaeus upon the apprehenfions of whatmay happen. "It isfate which 
*• determines the future^ fays one of thetn. The decrees of Ju- 
•* piter are inevitable. But may the hufbands, which we dread 
** fo njach fall to thelot of others, not to us !** « You pray for a 
•* bleflmg, anfwers the ' other, which it is not poffible to obtain. 
" Let us not prefume to penetrate into the fecrets of the Oods.* 
They conclude with conjurmg the Oods to preferve them from a 
marriage which they detefl. 

It is highly orobable, that Efchylus linifhes his tra^dy of the 
Suppliants in this manner, exprefsly to fhew die autuence, that 
he does not pretend to contradiift a received hiftory ; fince, in cf- 
fe(ft, the Danaides were conftrained to marry the fonsof Egyptus, 
and determined to murder them on the nuptial night. 

JbeEndoftbe Tragedies of Efchylus. 




O F 



Cc 2 


ACCORDING to the unknown author of the life of Sopho- 
^^ cles, that poet compofed a hundred and fevcntien, or a hun- 
dred and thirty tragedies, of which fevcn only have efcaped the 
injury of time. Three of thefe tragedies are entirely tranflated in 
the firft part of this work ; namely, Oedipus, Ele£kra, and Phi- 
loiitetes. The four others, gf which I flidl here give the analyiis, 
and indeed almofl the whole tranflation, are the jijax dtJiraBedy 
Antigone^ Oedipus at Colone, and The Tracbinia. To the Antigone, 
I fhall add a tragedy of Rotrou's on the fame fubjeft, and to the 
Trachiniae, the Hercules dyings of the fame French author, with 
^be^ Hercules of Mount Oeta^ of Seneca. According to hiftorical 
order, the plays of Sophocles are to be placed thus : 


OEDIPUS atColone. 
A J AX Diftrafted. 




O F 


A J Ax diftraaed. 

XHU S I tranflatc the title of the firft piece of Sophocles, be- 
caufe, if he was to live now, he would ufe it like the author 
lando Furiofo, and would make ufe of this word inftead of the 
term Wbipper : he would not now give his mad hero a name that 
offends the ear : he would baniih the thing itfelf, and would no 
longer fhew us Ajax with a vvhip in his hand, bufied in lafhing 
a ram, which he takes for UlyiTes. But we muft begin, by ex- 
cufing the thing and the word, which gave no offence to the ipec- 
tators for whom this poet wrote. After this warning, I will ex- 
hibit to the readers the fpedtacle of Ajax, fuch as Sophocles exhif 
bited him to the Athenians, obferving, once for all, that the de- 
corums are preferved in this piece; that the mad afts of Ajax are 
always done behind the fcenes, and never brought into public view. 
Ajax and Ulyffes, after Troy was taken, had a contention for 
the arms of Achilles^. The relics of fo great an hero were, in their 
eyes, a prize to which their anions gave them a claim ; as if the 
poflefSon of thofe arms would have been a fufficient teflimony to 
cither, that he inherited the qualities and the valour of Achilles- 
This difpute became a point of honour, and a queilion of ftate ; 
and that of fo great importance, that it was tried before the whole 
army of the Greeks. * Ovid has exerted all the facility and all 
the exuberance of his genius, in the pleas which he has aifigned 
to each of the rival princes. It ended in a vidory of eloquence 
over valour, in the preference of UlyiTes to Ajax. 
— — ~-~— *— -^■*— — ^™^— ^—^■^— ^— ■*~*^— ■^^— — ^— ^— — 
♦ Ovid.Mctaxn. B. 13. v. i. 

" ♦ Mota 

198 A J A X D 1 S T R A C T E D. 

♦ ** Mota manus procenim eft : & quid facundia poflet 
" Re patuit : rortifque viri tulit arma diflcrtus." 

This was an affiront wliich Ajax coold not digeft. He felt from 
it fb much vexation, that he loft his fenfes; and having refolved 
to wafh away his difgrace in the blood of all the Grecian princes, 
he had a paroxifm of rage, in which he flaughtered the flocks, and 
fancied he was cutting the throats of his judges. Among^ other 
aoimals, he brought into his tent a ranv which he called Ulyj^es^ 
and, full of this notion^ he ieveral times let loofe his fiury upon 
his imaginary prifoner. At laft, having returned to himfelf, and 
being vexed, not fo much with the remembrance of his rage as 
with finding that his vengeamre was vlfionary and ridicuktis, h% 
put an end to his own life. 

Whether this be hiftoty or &blc, it is ttkaft the idea of Sopho- 
cles, to which we muft confine ourfelves : as well as in the fubje<3:s of 
other ancient tragedies, wliere we &e that the po^ts gave them- 
selves great liberties, founded on die liferent tradi^nscxmcerning 
their heroes : for as thefe traditions did not agrw widi one an- 
other, they could chufe which they liked beft, or could change 
very importarit fa6ts, and yet not clafli with public opinions. 

I know that the Abbe d^jlubignac has written particularly upon 
this piece with great diligence and art, to fliew that aS the rules 
of the theatre are obferved in it with the utmoft nicety. He has 
evidently ihewn, that the time and place are oonfined with gwat 
dexterity within Ac limks of probability and good fenfe i but with 
refpedl to the ad:ion, the queftion is not quite io dear. He has 
<lifplayed the ikilful manner wi& which S<^hocks has imroduced 
his incidents, the dexterity with which he has 'Conn6<%ed the^fc^es, 
and made his a<ftors come and go naturally, and upon juft occa- 
£ons, has made the audknce know them at their firft entrance, 
has divided his afts judicioufly, and marked the intervals of a6JcHi 
with exaiftnefs, which are in Efchylus not perceived without much 
more difficulty. In fliort, the author of The art ^ ^Jlage has 
left nothing undone, to fhew that Ajax has all the beauties which 
are peculiar to a tragfedy, confidered as die reprefentation of aH 
aAion. But, without borrowing from him the refleftions he has 
made upon the procefs of the theatrical adion, which he has drawn 
^p for thofe who have already read the piece, I will content my- 
fclf with having it read in this book, and (hall ftop at the moft 

Acmarkable paflages, ^ -not d oubting that th e cii t icks will be a b le -to 

■ III I ■ > I ii II 
• Ovid. Metam. B. 13. v, 382. 



fee» without my help, the connedk>n of events, and the art of 
the poet ; fo that it will not be neceffary to dwell much upon 
them. The reflexicms of dAubighac fuppofe the piece already 
known, and I lay it complete before the reader. ^ 

A C T r. 

The iubjed; of this play is partly explained by the fcene only- 
It reprefents a camp, with a grove on one iide^ and on the other 
the more, and the Grecian fleet before Ilion. Among the tents, 
one is diflinguiihed from the reft by its fuperior iize, and its be-» 
ing placed near the front of the ftage. This i$ the tent of Ajax, 
before which the whole adion is to pafs. 

Minerva, who is vifible to the audience, but invifible toUlyf- 
fes, points out all this with great delicacy ; and perceiving the 
prince, who is come there to make difcoveries, and has his eyes 
fixed upon the pavilion of Ajax, " Tell me, fays (he to him, with 
*^ what defign thou art come hither, and I will inform thee of 
«< what thou deiireft to know." Ulyfles gives IVlinerva an account 
of what had happened in the night, bow a great number of fheep 
were found flaughtered, audit was fuppofed that Ajax had done it 
in a frantic fit. But, as the matter was ftill doubtful, he was come 
himfelf to get more certain intelligence, and intreats Minerva« his 
tutelary Divinity, to ailift him in making the difcovery. 

The Goddefs tells him, that it was really Ajax who had killed 
the ftieep; that in his frenzy he had taken them for the principal 
warriors in the army ; and that he would certainly have fatiated 
his vengeance upon them, if (he had laiot taken care to deprive him 
of the u(e of his reafon, and to give up tho(e animals to his fury* 
But that Ul3rfies may have palpable proofs of this fury, (be calls 
Ajax, and promifes the king of Ithaca to conceal him fo effec- 
tually frcMn the view of his enemy, that he may fee him without 
being feen. Here the two charaderiftics of Ulyflfes, timidity and 
prudence, are ftrongly marked ; tho', to confefs the truth, he 
fliewi himfelf a little cowardly, fince, nolwithftanding the precau- 
tions of his tutelary Goddeis, he gives plain indications that he 
would rather be di^nfed with from feeing Ajax. He adds, in- 
deed, that Ajax is much lefs formidable to him when in his feafes 
than thus agitated by madnefs : but, after all, he is very defirous 
of being afiured diat he is invifible ; and it is not till he has re- 
ceived mis aiTurancc, that he confents to fee the terrible Ajax : 
however, as he retires to the place where the Goddefs dire^s him 



to iland, he owns that he would much rather be farther off. This 
paffage, is, I confefs, not greatly to the praife either of Ulyfles or 
Sophocles. But the charadier of the king of Ithaca \^as too well 
known to the fpedators to admit of any palliations ; and at that 
time, the ideas of prudence and courage were very different from 
what they are at prefent. 

Another fault, almoft as inexcufable, if we have not recourfe 
to allegory, and confequently to the extravagant part which the 
Greeks make their Deities ad, is, that Minerva, who has de- 
prived the unhappy Ajax of the ufe of his reafon, calmly and de- 
liberately impofes upon him, by pretending to efpoufe his interefts, 
while (he is, in reality, ferving his rival. For fuch fcenes as thefe 
Homer is fometimes condemned, and fometimes pardoned; and, if 
Homer has committed an error in this, Sophocles is not free from 
it. The notion the ancients entertained of favourable and unfa- 
vourable Divinities was the caufe that they readily admitted this 
poetical adion of their Gods ; and upon this fuppofition, their age 
maybe abfolved or condenmed, if you will, with more juftice than 
their poets, who in their writings always conformed to the reign- 
ing tafte. As we advance farther in this work, we fhall be con- 
vinced, that the fable of the ancients was very different from their 
religion, and often allegorical. ^ 

Minerva calls Ajax a fecond time, and reproaches him for his- j 

want of attention to the voice of his patronefs. Ajax comes out of | 

his tent, and promifes Minerva a trophy of the fpoils, which he , 

thinks he has carried off from his enemies. This fcene is con- 
ducted with great art : forUlyfTes, without being feen, hears from 
the mouth of his enemy himlelf all that it concerns him to know. j 

Here is all the beauty of allegory complete for thofe that love it. : 

ForbyMinerva*reafon onlyismeant; and as this reafon, upon which 
mankind value themfelves ib much, as to confult no other but her, 
leads fome to their purpofed end, and deceives others ; fo Minerva 
makes ufe of UlyfTes to the prejudice of Ajax. I know that alle- 
gory mufl not be made the only key to antiquity ; and that Taflb, 
and other poets, who have followed it down to the lafl age, have 
run head-long into a labyrinth of allegories, where they have fome- 

• Here the allegory has certainly a place, which I would only ftate, he will find rea- 

I muft intreat the reader not to judge raih- fon to condemn both thefe extremes, which 

]y. In the fequel of this work, he will fee Plutarch mentions in bis treatifc of reading 

when and how far allegory ought to be ad- the poets, 
mitted in fables ; and in judging of points, 

4 times 

afV J A X t> 1 S TT R A C T fi E). ^qi 

times loft themfelvcs : but when allegory comes naturally into 
fable, of which it is> after sil, the original, fihce the heathens 
made Divinities x)f all vifible objedls, it is natural likewife to feel 
it, and to enter into thofc images which the poet attempts to lay 
before us, without endeavouring to find any myftery in the reft^ 
where the allegory appears Icfs evidently. 

The Goddefs, by her artful qaeftions, draws Ajax into a con- 
feflion of all his defigns againft the Greeks, and of the ill-will he 
hears to Ulyfles in particular : for he boafts of having flain the prin-^ 
cipal chiefs of the army, efpecially the Atridae; but, as for the 
king of Ithaca, he keeps him, he fays,^in dofe confinement, that 
he may languish under tedious torments, and at length expire. 
Minerva pretends to folicit in favour of Ulyfles ; but Ajax, altho* 
ready to obey every other command of the Goddefs, yet cannot 
confent -to pardon Ulyffes, and retires again into his tent to conti- 
nue his vengeance. 

** Well, UlyfTes, fays ^^ine^ya, thou fceft the great power of 
** the Gods. Was there in the whole army a wifer man, or a 
" ..greater hero than ^his priace ?*' She infinuates, that it was 
herfelf who had deprived him pf his tcafon, that fhc niight 
preferve UlyfTes from death. " Ah, ^nfwers the |dng of Itha- 
•* ca, I do him juflice; and althpugh he is my enemy, I pity 
"** his misfortune. The fight of him creates a tender Empathy 
** in my mind, and I am cqnfcious of my own weaknefs. Alas ! 
" what are we wretched mortals, but fhades and phantoms !" 
"•• Learn then, rcfumes Minerva, to. venerate the Gods, and not to 
** derive infblcnce frc^m the advantages thpu 49ft ppfl'^fs oyer others. 
** The fhort fpace of one /day is raife ot- to deprefs a 
'^ mortal. .Humility is p} the Gods, hut pride a^d info- 
*** lencc ofiend them." Theiefi^w wofds JLUCulcate the moral 
>iYhich Sophocles has a view to in this tragedy. Ajax was. haughty, 
ambitious, and untrad:able; and thefe vices : plunged him into an 
abyfs of miferies. He^-e the Chorus, who have not yet appeared, 
enter. It is natural for the fubjedts of Ajax, upon, the report that 
was fpread concerning him throughout the army, to come and en-* 
quire into the condition of their fovereign, and of thefe Sophocles 
lias judicioufly.comppfi^ the Chorus. They immediately declare 
the Qccalion of their comii^ thither, their fears for Ajax, and 
their hatred bf UlyfTes, who afFeds to confirm in whifpers the fuf- 
picions conceived againfl Ajax. This fcene is an eulogium of the 

Vol. II. D d foldieri 


foldiers upon their general. It is full of grand fentences, the foI»- 
lowing paffage is juft and beautiful. 

" Thofe malignant cenfures to which the great are expofed 
" find a ready admiffion into all minds; yet the poor have always 
" need of princes : but fuch is the ingratitude of mea, that they 
** hate thofe from whom they have received obligations. In your 
" abfence, they will mangle your reputation, and fliould you ap- 
'* pear, a (ingle glance will freeze them with terror." 

They afk one another what can be the caufe of the rage of Ajax ^ 
They conclude, that the Gods have ftruck him withmadnefs ; this 
was the popular opinion, of which we have already fcen fome 
examples in regard to Phedra, for they afcribed all accidents Xo> 
fuperior caufes. *' At length, fay they, we muft give credit to the 
** vile reports ofUlyfles; thefe are the confequences of his malices, 
** fhew yourfelf Ajax^. why are you concealed within your tent? 
** Why do you give your enemies an occaiion of triumph over you?" 


Tecmeffa the captive, and the wife of Ajax, comes out of the 
tent upon thefe cries of the Salaminians. She appears in great 
affliftion, and tells them, in very pathetic terms, the caufe of her 
forrow. Ajax, far from his country and relations; is fallen- into a 
ftrange difeafe. The Salaminians prefs her to tell them what had paiTed 
during the preceding night. " Alas, fays flie, how can I relate 
" thefe horrors \ you may with your own eyes fee the bloody ef- 
^ fedts of his delirium." She afterwards gives a fliort and lively def- 
criptlon of her hufband's frantick rage 5 fo that the foldiers, terrified 
at this recital, think themfelves loft. Will the Atridae and the ar- 
my, convinced that Ajax had an. intention to deftroy them, fpare 
his miferable troops deftitute of a leader? they deliberate whether 
they fhould not endeavour to preferve themfelves by inftant flight. 
Tecmeffa retains them. " Ajax, fays flic> has recovered his-fenfes-; 
^ but (adds fhefighing) his diforder is but the more violent. While 
♦* his frenzy continued, the wretched condition I faw him in gave 
^* me unutterable pangs 5 but this filent anguifh, this melancholy 
*' gloom, this keen fenfe of (hame, throws me into defpair : then he 
*' was ignorant of his misfortune, now he is but too fenfible of it." 
After thefe few words, the foldiers prevail upon her to continue 

her recital- 



A J A X D I ST R A C T E D. 203 

This continuation is -fo noble, fb full of nature and paflion, that 
1 could not think myfelf difpenfed with, from giving it entire. 
Tecmefla goes on in this manner : «• Hear then our diftrefles and 
** lamentations, fince you will feel their efFe€ls, When night had 
^* fpread her fable veil over the earth, Ajax armed himfelf with 
^* his fword, and prepared to iflue out of his tent. I endeavoured 
^* to retain him. What would you do, my lord ? Why thus in* 
^* ccflantly and without orders, do you charge yourfelf with the 
^* care of watching over the army ? Have you received any fecret 
** orders ? Has the trumpet founded ? Remember, I befeech you, 
'* that the whole army is buried in fleep. He made me his ufual 
anfvver, * Silence is the portion and the ornament of women. I 
forhore to importi^ne him, and he left me. I knew not what 
^ paiTed during his abfence ; but at his return, I faw him driving 
'* before him, a great number of fheep and dogs. He exercifed 
^' his rage upon thefe defpicable animals ; he cut the throats of 
-*' fome, he ftabbed others, and on feveral, he infUdted the punifh- 
^' ment of flaves -f-. Again he went out of his tent, and flopping 
'* with fbme invifible Demon, flill foaming with rage againft the 
•** Atridae, and the king of Ithaca, he bodied with itorn, that he 
** had at length taken vengeance for the injuries he had received. 
** Once more he entered his tent, flill frantick; and it was not till 
'* a long time after, that he awakened as from a dream. His rea- 
** fon returning, he beheld his tent filled with blood and mangled 
'* carcafTes: then heflruck his head; hecriedaloud;he*threw himfelf 
'* proflrate among the mangled carcaffes, he tore his hair, and, lay 
.** for fome moments, like one flupid with grief. At length re- 
** covering, he flormed, he raved, he queflioned me concerning 
^* what had pafTed ; and, with horrid imprecations, commanded me 
** to give him a faithful account of all that had happened to him. 
** I obeyed him but too well, for immediately he broke intolamenta- 
" tions, fuch as I had never heard proceed from his mouth. For- 
" merly he ufed to fay, that only weak minds had recourfe to 
'^ tears and complaints ; his grief was always calm and filent, he 
'< kept it clofe, fhut up in his own heart ; and, like a bull exped- 

* A Gernian, who went to vifit Madame des^ in his pocket-book, yvtaiit xo(r/Aoy i ^ly^ 

Dacier, as an extraordinary pcrfon, intreat- <^<f«. Silence is the portion and the orna- 

* ed her» as was cidlomary with ftrangers, to ment of women, 
give him a fentence and her name; accord- f The laih< 
ingly ihe wrote this lentence from Sopho^ 

D d 2 mg 


'* ing the ftrofcc of deaths he ftiflcd even hisgroam : but now tfiia 
** hero, overwhelmed with mifery, languifbcs witbout food ; he 
" lies extended on the ground, among the animials wlwxn he has. 
** facrificed to his rage, and feems to meditate fonKthing fatal,. 
" This is what his cries and bis complaints prefage. Alas mj 
" friends ! I came out only to implore your afliftance ; enter his 
** tent, endeavour to rccal him to reaibn ; the unhappy are £bn- 
*' fibie to the foft foothings cff fricndfhip." 

Hfere Tccmeffa concludes, and immediate^ they hear the cries 
of Ajax. •* Ah miferable wretch that I am, exclaims Tccmefla, 
*' he calls for thee my fon, my Eurifaces !'' This ientiment is very 
natural: the tetidernefs of the mother is alamxed; ihe dreads, left the 
fury of the frantic father fhould fill upon her fon. Ajax cries, " It 
" is Teucer whoih I call ; will he always make incurfions upon, 
" his enemy, till his brother is deftroyed?" Tecmefla opens the 
tent. Ajax is feen within it: he knows his faithful Salamintans; and 
after (hewirlg them thb marks of his frenzy, he groans at the 
thought of his becoming the jeft of his enemies. 

In all he fays there appears fbme remains of wiMnefs ; it is the- 
imsige of a fea ftill rUfRed, tho* the tempeft is paft. The Chorus 
endeavour to comfort him, with the ufual ai^uments; while the 
prince, always meditating upon his vengeance &> cruelly difappoinft^ 
ed, fometimes wifhes to fee Ul3rfles and the Greeks, that he might 
facrifict them to his rage, and die afterwards ; and £>metimes in^ 
vokes the infernal deities, in the moft aifl^ing manner imdgina> 
ble, It is the eloquence of defpair, exdamations (even to things, 
irtenitttate) fentiments didteted by natute, and varied by grief: 
ihofe refiedtions upon one's own condition, fo familiar to the anci- 
ents, and the language of terror, and compaifion, which in dra- 
matick reprefentiitions, produce fuch great etaotions. His repu- 
tarion fo deeply wounded is what affofts Ajaxmoft; he compares 
what he is, with what he has been : the thought drives him to def- 
pair. " He is become an objedt of horror and contempt to the 
•* Gfeeks ! what fliall he do ? Shall he return to his own country ? 
*' How will Telamon receive a fon who has been (hamefuUy de- 
" prived of Achilles' armour? Shall he^o fingly and throw him- 
*• felf into Troy, to die by the hands of the Trojans? This would 
** give the Atridae too much fatisfadlion.'' At length he refblvesta 
waih away his difgrace in his blood, and give himfelf death. 

Tecmefla endeavours to dtfluade him from this fatal refolution, 
by arguments fo tender and pathetick, that it is not poflible to 


A J A X D I S T R A C T E D. 205 

read them unmoved. .The poet docs not give her that fludied de* 
licacy of fentiment which hafi fince been the fafhion upon die 
ftage. Hers are the aniauted expreffions of conjugal afFe<aion. 
She places before his eyes, a wife and fon, vrhom his death will 
reduce to flavery, and expofe to the mod barbarous infidts>andafa* 
ther and mother in extreme old age, whofe only confolation it is, 
to pray to the Gods^ and to hope fpr the happy return of Ajax. 
Again ftie refumes the point which nxoft concerns her. *' Alas^ 
** a Phrygian by births once the flave of Ajax, and now thy wiftv 
<* to thee I have devoted all my tendernefs; thou art the only good 
** that I have left. Thou deprivedft me of all ; by thee my family 
" was ruined, my mother murdered; the deftinies had cut myfa- 
** thcr's thread before, both parents are in the tomb^ Should I 
«* lofe thfic, who will be to meinftead of my country, and all thou 
** haft bereft me of? I have no refource but thee ; live then for 
" me at leaft." &c. 

Ajax deiires to fee his foa* The child is brought to him, he cm^ 
braces him. This fcene is extremely moving ^ we fancy we fee 
He&or giving Aftyanax his laft embrace. '^ Approach, fays ^ax> 
<* to the Have who has him in her armsi come near. This infant 
^ will not be terrified at the fight of blood and flaughter, if he in- 
«^ herits his father's courage j at lealt he /hould be accuftomed to 
^^ imitate him. Oh m^ft thou be happier than thy father, and in 
* ** all things refemble him but in his fortune!" Virgil copies So- virg. Encid;. 
. phocles in the fpeech he makes .£neas addrefs to Afcanius his ion. B« 17. v. 435. 

" Difce, puer, virtutem ex me verujnque laborem, 

" Fortunam ex aliis." 

Ajax continues. " Thou haft at leaft the advantage of not feeling 
<* thy misfortunes, O happy age ! when we are infenfible of grief. 
" Tnis is indeed to live, but foon ihall this envied ftate be paft. 
^ When thou haft attained to riper years, then it is thy part to 
^ fliew our enemies from what a father thou didft receive thy 
*• birth.** Ajax turns to the, and recommends his 
fon to them. He forbids them to give his armour as a prize, 
for the contending armies of Greece, in the fame manner as the 
armourof Achilles was. ** Thou, my dear Euryfaces, fays he,. 
^ flialt inherit this formidable buckler whofe name thou beareft. 
" Let the reft of my arms be placed in my tomb ; do thou, Tecmef- 
" fa, carry back this child : Let not the fbftnefs and pity natural to 
'* your fex, betray you to clamorous expreflions of forrow, in a 
** camp. Retire immediately with the child/' Hie feels himfelf 
foftened here, and therefore endeavours to recal his fortitude, and 



pronounces thefe laft words with a degree of fiercenefs^ which gives 
room to fear the fpeedy execution of his fatal defigns. ^' Ah 
** cries Tecmefla, what wounds doft thou give my heart ! I conjure 
'* theej in the name of this infant, thy only fon, and by the Gods, 
" do not deftroy thyfelf." ♦* Art thou ignorant, anfwers theinex- 
" orable Ajax, that I no longer owe any thing to the Gods?" An 
anfwer which plainly (hews, that he has already taken his reib- 

While he terrifies Tecmefla, by his fatal obftinacy, the Chorus 
lament his misfortune, and complain of the injuftice of the Atri- 
dae; but]Ajax, who begins to be apprehenfivc that his Salaminians 
will oppofe the defign he has formed to kill himfelf, feigns to be 
moved with the tears of his wife, and to have altered his refoluti- 
on. He tells his foldiers, that he will go and bathe himfelf in a 
fountain, by way of luftration, to expiate the flaughter of the night; 
and that he will afterwards bury in the earth, the unfortunate 
fword, the fad inheritance he had received from Hedtor, and now 
become hateful to him, fince it had been the inflrument of his 
wild rage. He declares that he will make fatisfa<ftion to the Atri- 
dae for what he had done, in order ro recover their good opinion; 
and on this occafion, he repeats that celebrated fentence of Bias, 
which Cicero has exprefled his difapprobation of; namely. That 
we ought to live with our enemies, as if they were one day to be our 
friends; and with our friends, as if they were to become our ene- 
mies.. The Chorus, deceived by this feeming change of mind, 
clofe the aft with fbngs of joy, till Ajax returns. 


An attendant enters, and ^ves notice of the arrival of Teucer, 
the brother of Ajax; who, as it has been hinted, in the courfeofthe 
tragedy, had been long expected. He declares, that this prince was 
very near being murdered by the Grecian fddiers ; but that the tu- 
mult had been quelled by their commanders. This man defires 
to fee Ajax. The Chorus tell him that he is abfent. *« Alas, cries 
the meffenger, I am afraid that I am come too late." For Teucer 
h^d left ftridt orders with his brothers attendants, not to fuffer 
him to ftir out of his tent till his return. The Salaminians in vain 
attempt to renjove the apprehenfions of this meflenger. He ac- 
quaints them wifh the occafion of his uneafinefs: It was a pre- 
di<3:ion of Calchas. Ajax had not much devotion to the Gods, 
ai)d this was the firft caufe of feis misfortunes. When Telamon 


',& J A X D I S T R A C T E a 207 

his father exhorted him to fight valiantly under the aufpices of 
the Gods, he anfwered him, that a viiflory obtained by the affift- 
ance of a deity was the viftory of a coward ; and one day ad- 
dreffing himfelf to Minerva, he faid, *^ Goddefs give thy aid to o- 
** ther Greeks; they have need of it : as for me, I do not fear my 
** enemies." This was the origin of Minerva's difpleafure againft 
him; and it was upon this occafion, that Calchas had pointed out 
to Teucer the day in which the Goddefs had refolved to ex- 
ecute her vengeance upon Ajax. " Let him not go out that day, 
** faid Calchas, and he is fafe/' Teucer's meflenger adds, " If the 
** predi(3:ion of Calchas be true^ Ajax, fince he is gone out, will 
•• perifh." 

Tecmeflaisxalled. This fhocking news throws herback into that 
anxiety and grief, from which fhe had fo lately, and with fuch dif- 
ficulty been relieved. She inftantly difpatches fome of the Sala- 
minians in fearch of Ajax, and others to bring Teucer. She is 
now but too well convinced, that her hu(band's defign was to de- 
ceive her, and free himfelf from her complaints. She runs her- 
felf to feds, him, uncertain what path ihe fhall take; and thus the 
ftage remains free for Ajax, who enters on the other fide. This 
is a mafterftroke of Sophocles, to difmifs the Chorus with propri- 
ety; and indeed this paiiage is greatly praiied by the Abbe 
d' Aubignac.* 


The return of Ajax is an excellent fccne. All that a calm and 
deliberate defpair fuggefts moft horrible is there painted ; and in 
the moft ftriking colours. " The inftrument of my death is prepa- 
^' red," fays Ajax, as he enters. In efieft he has fixed the pum^ 
mel of his fword in the earth, that he may throw himfirif upon 
its point. He continues ; ** What then remains for me to do, but to 
** invoke the Gods ?" He begins with Jupiter, and implores of 
this God, that it may be Teucer who finds him bathed in his 
blood, that he may preferve his* body from the cruel vengeance of 
the Greeks, who will give it to be devoured by vultures : a thing 
very important for the defence of the laft aft, which we fliall 

He afterwards begs of Mercury, to procure him a death fpecdy, 
and refembling a foft flumber. He next addrefles his prayers to 
the Furies, and implores them to revenge his death upon the Atri- 
dae. " Oh powerful Goddefles, let them fuffer the fevcrcft efFedls of 


• Pratique du Theatre. 


^' your rage; and as they will fee me dead, by my own hands, may 
** they expire by the hands of thofe who arc deareft to them. 
" * Go, ye, Eumenides, fly, ftrike^ fpare none of die hated Greeks^ 
'* may the whole army perifh ! And diou, oh Sun, when from thy 
** chariot thou beholdeft my native country, ftop thy fteeds a 
^* moment, and to my aged father, to my unhappy mother, declare 
^ the fate of Ajax ! Alas, when they ihall hear I am no more, 
" how will the whole city refound with their lamentable criesi 
** But it is not now a time to talk of tears and forrows ; my bufi- 
'* nefs is to die. Oh death, deign to behold me with a favourable 
" eye ! foon (hall we dwell together in the manfions of the infer- 
" nal deities ! Oh day, oh Tun, I {hall never behold you more ! Oh 
" Salamine, oh thou palace of myanceftors,adieu! adieu, my long^ 
^* loved friends! Ye rivers, ye meads and fountains, who faw my 
** birth, receive the laft farewel of Ajax ! for the Shades I refervc 
" the reft." Here he kills himfelf, and probably in a corner of 
the ftage. The moderns ufe lefs ceremony when they (hew a 
hero putting an end to his life. This is done cavalierly enough>. 
Racine and the ancients reviewed it more clearly, becau(e nature 
j'cquires it. 

A fine fituation is not to be fought for at the expcnce of nature and 
propriety. Part of the Chorus Return ftill feaking Ajax; the 
reft enter on the other fide, having been equally unfuccefsful. 
Tecme(ra comes in afterwards, aqd fhe, as being more interefted 
and penetrating, difcovers the body of Ajax, and acquaints the 
Chorus with it* All this is full of tendernefs and paflion ; for 
Tecmefla enun^rates all the midfortunes fhe had but too well fore- 
feen. Teuccr, whom they had fought for in vain, arrives in the 
midft of this confufion and diftrefsj he knows not yet the fatal 
accident that has happened. The Chortis acquaint him with it> 
without any difguife. What a ftrofcc was this for a- brother and k 
friend! He dcfircs to fee the body of Ajax, which TecmeflTa had 
covered with her robe, and tender^ laments over it. ** Oh (hock*- 
«* ing fight ! Oh unfortunate voyage ! He had haftened to prevent 
*' this cruel misfortune, and fate did not permit him to arrive in 
** time. How (hall he dare to behold again his wretched parents, 

• The imprecations of the dying were his wife, the fleet was difperfed in a ftorm, 

confidered and dreaded as fo many ora- and very few of the Greeks returned to 

cles. Thofe of Ajax were partly accom- their own country, 
plifhed. •Agamemnon was murdered by 

*' after 


^* after being unable topreferve their fon ? What reports willnotbe 
** raifed to his difadvantage ? That delay which was his misfor- 
** tune will be imputed to him' as a crime. What refource (hall he 
** find among the Trojans, his enemies ? could it have been ima- 
** gined that Heftor, tho' dead, (hould be the murderer of Ajax ? 
** Oh how wretched has been the Jeftiny of thele two heroes ! 
** Their mutdal prefents have been fatal to them both, Hedtor, 
•«* bound with the belt which he received from Ajax, was dragged 
** along the earth by furious courfers; Ajax peri(hed by the fword 
*' that Hedor gave him. Oh without doubt. Hell and the Furies 
" formed thefe cruel gifts." He concludes the fpeech with this fcn^ 
tence : " Certainly, fays he, all this cannot be the efFedl: of chance; 
** it is the work of the Gods, who permitted thefe things to hap- 
** pen : fuch is my opinion; let others judge as they pleafe." This 
tacking of fentences to the fineft paffages was the genius of the 
Greeks 5 but in our age it would not pleafe, 

Ajax being dead, it (hould fccm that the tragedy is concluded ; 
yet it is not, nor ought to be fo, if we refleft on the notions the 
ancients had of fepulchral rites. With them, death was not the 
laft of miferies ; to be deprived of burial, was an infamy far 
more terrible than death itfelf. This circumftance is the founda- 
tion of the remaining fcenes : according to our tafte, it is a defeft; 
and yet in this, Sophocles has made the chief force of his tragedy 

Menelaus, upon the>eport of Ajax's death, comes on the part of 
the Grecian princes, to forbid Teucer to bury him. This cruel 
prohibition raifes a conteft between vengeance on one fide, and 
tendernefs on the other : Menelaus and Teucer fupport their dif- 
ferent opinions with fuch ftrong reafons, that the contefted buri- 
al becomes an affair of ftate. This fort of policy appears ftrange to 
us ; and here is the immenfe chaos, the invincible obftacle, which 
hinders us from entering into the manners of the ancients, in or- 
der to judge properly of their dramatic works. Menelaus colour- 
ed over the hatred which the Greeks bore to Ajax with the pre- 
tence of political in tereft, and private vengeance with the punifli- 
ment due to a crime againft the ftate. *' Ajax, fays, he, dead as he 
** is, ought to fufFer the puhifhment due to his defigned crime ; al- 
" though a Goddefs prevented the execution of it, what would be- 
^' come of a kingdom or an army, if guilt like his was pafTed o- 
" ver with impunity ? vehat would be the confequence if each in- 
** dividual was allowed to follow the guidance of his own paflions ( 

Vol. II. E e Tcu- 


Teuccr, enraged at the imperious manner aiTunfted by Menclaus, 
afks him, upon what he founded that authority he affedled oa 
this occafion, *• Was not Ajax, fays he, a king, as well as yourfelf ? 
" did he follow your colours as a fubjedl ?" The difpute grows 
wanner s and at length Menelaus retires, that he may execute 
by fc^ce thofe commands which Teucer had refufed to obey. 

Mean time, Teucer places the fon of Ajax at the feet of his dead 
father, with fome locks of hair cut off, to belpread upon his tomb. 
Tecmeila aiMs at this funeral ceremony; and this fpedtacle (a 
Angular to us, muft needs be very afFc<5ting to the Greeks : for 
Teucer, being obliged to go in fearch of a proper place to bury 
Ajax in, leaves him as a precious truft to an infant, and an afHiifted 
wife, in order to excite the compaffion of thofe who might be 
commiflioncd by the Greeks, to take away the body. ** Whoever 
** dares to attempt it (fays he as he is going) may he perifti! may 
^^ he and his whole poilerity have the fame fate with this hair^ 
" which I now cut off!" It is either his or the child's ; a Pagan 
rite which we have obfervedupOn before. The Chorus as ufual ex- 
prefs their grief for the death of Ajax, and begin the mourning, or 
funeral ceremony* 

A C T V. 

Teucer returns, and is immediately followed by Agamemnon ; 
and here a new quarrel arifes upon the body of Ajax. It muft be 
confefTcd, that the Greek heroes treat each other very rudely : but 
fuch were the manners of a nation, in other refpedts fo polite ; for 
in this the Romans have copied the Greeks, as is plain by tha 
abufe with which Cicero loads Verres and Pifon. In Sophocles, 
however, thefe railings are not quite fo harfli and brutal as in Ci-' 
cero and Homer ; but, to own the truth, the two warriors are in- 
decent enough to reproach each other with the ftain in their 
birth : and however eloquent thefe reproaches may be, I believe 
there is no French reafoning that can make them be fwallowed. 

It is therefore fufficient to warn the reader candidly of thef^ in- 
decorums, without giving him the trouble to read them here. 
The Chorus endeavour in vain to pacify tliefe princes j but Ulyffes . 
enters very feafonably, to prevent the confequence.of fo dangerous 
a quarrel. 

He reprefents to Agamemnon, that his hatred has lafted long 
enough ; and that it is unworthy of a hero to perfecute his enemy 
after his death. '' As for me, adds Ulyfles, I hated him as long 

2 ** as 


" as I could do fo without a crime. Ajax was my enemy, but 
'* ftill he was no lefs a hero; and my admiration of his valour was 
** greater than my refentment of that enmity he bore me/' This 
is the thought which Racine has fo hap-pily borrowed, and put 
into the mouth of Pyrrhus, on tlie fuhjefl: of Heftor's fon. 

" Mon courroux aux vaincus ue fut que trop fcverc, 
*' Mais que ma cruaute furvive a ma colere, &c." 

The fentiment is equally noble in Sophocles and Racine; but 
we have the exprcffion of one, and it is impoflible to render that of 
the other. Now all, or almoft all, depends upon the expreflion ; 
and here we can only prefent the critical reader with fome faint 
fketches, from which he nmft form his judgment of the reft. 

This gencrofity in Ulyfles, whom Ajax had moft offended, fof- 
tens Agamemnon; and confoles Teucer fo much the more, as the 
king of Ithaca nobly c^ers to aifift him in peFfbrmine the funeral 
rites. However Teucer does not accept thi» offer, but contents 
himfelf with the afSftance of the Salaminians ; he gives (hem his 
orders, and the piece concludes with the adion. 

But i^we are furpriied to fee almoft two a6ts taken up with a 
difpuf on occaiion of a iepulchre, we fhall be more aftonifhed to 
find a v/hole tragedy on the fame fubjeft : in which, however, the 
tender paffions are excited in the higheft degree. It is the trage- 
dy of Antigone ; and this ingenious piece requires either the fame 
precautions, or the fame indulgence with the foregoing. 

The tragedies of Eleftra, and Oedipus king of Thebes, are in 
the firft part of diis work. 




ANTIGONE is a fubjea: fo nearly connefted with the The- 
baid, that one is unintelligible without the other. Eteocles 
and Polynices, the fons of Oedipus, had agreed to Ihare the fcepter 
of Thebes between them, and each to reign ayear alternately. Ete- 
ocles the firft pofleffor, having taftedthe fweets of dominion, found 
himfelf not difpofed to obferve the treaty. He maintained himfelf 
upon the throne j and Polynices to recover his right entered Thebes 
at the head of an army of Argives: after a long and obftinate 
battle, the two, brothers agreed to decide their pretenfions in a 
fingle fight, in which both fell. Creon, their uncle, affumed the 
crown ; but the firft cflay he made of the fupreme power, was to 
publifli a decree, forbidding any perfon to bury Polynices, who he 
declared worthy of this infamous punifliment, for having made 
war upon his native country. Whoever (hould dare to give him 
thp rites of fepulchre, was to be interred alive. 

Antigone, the fifter of Polynice, thought it her duty on this oc- 
cafion, to Men rather to thfe didtates of her tendernefs than her 
fears; (he difobeyed the law, and was the vidtim of it. On this 
laft circumftance Sophocles founds his tragedy. We fhall fee 
fome paffages of it in Rotrou's Antigone, which is partly a tranfla- 
tion of the Greek one. The perfons are, Antigone and his fifter 
Ifmene: The Chorus compofed of ancient Thebans ; Creon, king 
of Thebes: Tirefias, a prophet : oneof the guards : Eurydice the 
wife of Creon : Hemon his fon : An officer : A flave. The fcene 
is in the veftibule of the palace; and the time when the adlion begins 
is turned theclofe of the night. Thefe two circumftances are exact- 
ly marked in the firftfcene, as was the conftant pradtice of Sophocles. 

A C T I. 

Sophocles, to explain the fubjeft, naturally introduces Antigo^ 
ne leading her fifter Ifmene to the veftibule of the palace, to com- 
municate a fecret, only proper for a fifter's ear. This is a ftroke 
of art, Mrhich ftiews how deeply the poet had ftudied dramatick 
probability. Antigone begins thus: " My dear Ifmene, is the 
** wretched family of Oedipus deftined to fuiFer any miferies 



*' which Jupiter has not already infliifted upon it ? Ah no, guilt, 
** ignominy, and delpair, have concurred to form our common 
" woes! do you know what a barbarous edidt is defigned to be 
** published by the new king ? Our brothers, replies Ifmene, are 
** flain by each other's hands, the forces of the Argives are wholly 
" defeated : this is all I know. Well, refumes Antigone, I know 
*' more; audit is to impart this fecret to you, that I havjs brought 
'* you out of the palace." 

She tells her lifter, that Creon has given orders for (blemnizing 
the funeral of Eteocles, but has forbid the Thebans, on pain of 
death, to bury the body of Poly nices; that he will foon appear, and 
publifh this inhuman decree himfelf ; and that fhe perceives but 
too well the black defigns he has formed againft them : for (he 
adds, thofe words which I ftiall take from Rotrou, afking fome in- 
dulgence for the antiquated ^ile of the matter of Corneille. 

** L' Ordonnance avec foi porte fa fin cxpreffe. RSS^^Aa 

** Ceft a nous qu'elle parle, a nous qu'elle s'adreffe, &c.** jd/^" 9th. 

Here is at leaft the fenfe, and the turn of Sophocles. The reader 
perhaps will not be dilpleafed, to fee part of the fcene, which is 
almoft literally tranflated from the Greek. 

IsMENE. *' Dieux, que propofez-vous ? & que pouvons-nous faire 
" Qui ne foit inutile au repos de mon frere ? 

Antig. " Acquittons-nous au moins felon notre pouvoir. 

IsMEN. ** Mais, ma foeur, Timpuiflance excufe le devoir. 

Antig. *• Quoi, vous vousdefendez d'un fi pieux ouvragc! 

IsMEN. ** L*efperancc me manque, & non pas le courage." 

Rotrou pufhes this thought too far, and makes it fink at laft to a 
jingle of wordsi We will now return to Sophocles. 

Antig. But Polynices is our brother. 

IsMEN. Creon is our king, and will be obeyed. 

Antig. Ah, can he force me to neglefl: the remains of a 
brother ? 

IsMEN. Alas, Antigone, Oedipus our wretched father, after ha- 
ving deprived himfelf of fight, ended his days in grief and ignomi- 
ny! His mother, his wife, two names of mifery, died by her 
own hand ; our brothers perilhed in one day by each other's fword. 
We who are the miferable remains of this unhappy race, muft ex- 
pe<ft to fuiFer a more cruel fate, if we offend our tyrant. 

'* Nous nc pouvons rien. j, ., 

^< Un peu d'abaifiement aujourd'hui nous fied bien. &c. 



Antig. Away, I will folicit thee no longer, thy coward fear 
would render thy affiftance ufelefs to me ; enjoy thy prudence, 
temporife,'and be fafe : Polynices (hall receive the laft offices from 
me alone ; and if I die for this a<3:, my death will be glorious ; I 
Ihall be the viftim of my piety, and (hare his tomb. Go, drf- 
honour the Gods, di(honour the dead, (ince that is thy choice. 
Secure of being ever with them, it is they, and not tyrants, whom 
I feek to pleafe, 

IsME N. ** Ah, que vous me caufez une frayeur extreme! 
Ibid, Antig. " Ne m epouvantez pas, & tremblez fur vous-meme,&c. 

Although thefe verfes are a little antiquated, yet the turn of 
them is natural, and well exprefTes that of the Greek poet; whoie 
thoughts, however, if they had been more faithfully rendered, 
would poffibly have pleafed more. This fcene is of the fame kind 
with that between Eledtra and Cryfothemis * : there is the fame 
contraft of charadler between thofe two prince(res a« between 
Antigone and Ifmene. 

The Chorus, compofcd of the old men of Thebes, who are af- 
fembled by Creon's command, blefs, as they enter, the happy day 
in which Thebes is faved from the triumph of the Argives. He 
whofpeaks for the reft, recounts the fatal events of which he had been 
a witnefs ; and celebrates the vidtory of the Thebans. A Latin 
tranflator has made of this hymn, the Chorus, a very 
beautiful ode; in which, the comparifon of Thebes with a dragon, 
and that of the enemies army with an eagle, are finely exprelTed ; 
as likewife the vifible'proteftion which Jupiter gave the Tnebans : 
the murder of the two brothers, and the complete vidlory gained 
over the Argives. This ode concludes with a line, which alfo 
marks the time of the night. " Let us go and fill the temples with 
•* ournodturnal fongs." There Creon arrives, who had given orders 
for the old Thebans to aiTcmble. 

Creon makes a fpeech to tliem, in which, after praifing their 
fidelity to their kings, and repeating a fentence, fince quoted by 
Demofthenes, namely, that a king is never well knvwn till be reigns, 
he difplays prodigious zeal for Thebes; and, as the firft proof'of it, 
publifhes his decree, forbidding any of his fubjeftsto bury Polynices, 
whom he confiders as the enemy of his country ; but forEtcocles, 
who had valiantly defended the ftate, he ordains extraordinary fu- 
neral honours. Thus he makes the punifhment equal to the ho- 

* Eleftra of Sophocles, Vol. i. A61 III. p. 474. 



nour, and maintains, that the one ought to be as fbameful as the 
other glorious. 

The old men. without rcfle<5ling on CreonV political defigns in 
this decree, and the conlequences of them, blindly fubmit to the 
will of their fovereign : Sophocles has introduced this mean fub- 
miflion cxprefly, to make the Athenians fenfible of their happy 
freedom. This law thus publiflied, and meeting with no contra- 
diction, pafles for a law of the whole ftate. Yet Creon, tho' the 
Chorus take upon them to anfwer for the obedience of the reft of 
the Thebans, fuffers it to be perceived, that he is apprehenfive he 
{hall find fome of them difobedient. Rotrou has imitated this 
fccne alfo, and has even improved upon Sophocles; for he fuppo- 
fes that the affair was brought under deliberation, introduces two 
courtiers, one of whom fubfcribcs to the law, and juftifies it, and 
the other ventures to condemn it in thefe terms : 

^* C*eft trop, Cleodamas, exagerer fon crime, Rotrou Antl^ 

« Que fa pretention fat jufte ou legitime, &c." sT\a^ ^^^' 

This paffage, which was forpierly ihining, and is now old fa- 
fhioned, by the wanton change of the modes of expreflion, fhews 
us at leaft, the tafte and manner of thinking of a poet, whofe 
works are no longer read. But we will now return to Sophocles. 

One of the guards enters in great terror, and produces a fufpen- 
fion, which proves how much Creon is already feared in Thebes, 
and what exaft obedience was paid there to the commands of the 
fovereign. His recital is full of fimplicity. He trembles, he fays, 
to utterwhat he knows ; andthat in his way hither, he often faid to 
himfelf: ** Where art thou going, unhappy man ? Thou art haften- 
ing to certain death: but if thou fhouldeft ftay, thou wilt offend 
Creon, and be more miferable flill." Thefe were melanchoUy reflec- 
tions, adds he, and fhort as the journey was, majde it feem tedious. 
The delicate fimplicity of thefe paffages, was not by the Greeks . 
judged unworthy the dignity of tragedy. And why indeed fliould 
it? Becaufe Terence was the firft who introduced it in his come- 
dies, and Seneca had not tafte enough to give it a place in tragedy. 

The foldiers being preffed to explain himfelf, and reaffured by 
the king, who promijfes to difmifs him in fafety, at lengtli declares, 
that fome perfon had already begun to give funeral honours to the 
body of Polynices ; that is, that a black cloak was fpread over him, 
and the libatioTis of the dead poured upon the corps. He pro- 
tefts, that none of the guards knew when this was done, or had 



any means of difcovering the author. So that at firft they fup- 
pofed it to be a prodigy ; but that at laft, they fufpedted each 
other; and, in the heat of their mutual accufations, they came almoft 
to blows. He adds, that they were all ready to prove their inno- 
cence, by walking through the midft of flames. Thefe are the 
poet's words; and that, at length one of them had determined, by 
his authority, to decide by lot, who (hould carry this news to the 

The Chorus add, that they are induced to believe this was thtf 
work of the Gods; but Creon reproves them feverely for this 
thought. ** How is it probable that the Gods would them- 
*• felves honour with a tomb, the traitor who had fo lately with 
*• flaming torches furrounded their temples and violated their laws?" 
He therefore attributes this attempt to fome factious perfons, who 
had with bribes purchafed minifters of their rebellious pity, to 
infringe the law. He fufpedls the guards, and threatens to put 
them all to death, if they do not find out the criminal. The foU 
dier withdraws, happy in getting ofFfo eafily, and fwears he will 
return no more. 

The intervening Chorus gives a moral lefture upon the wonder- 
ful dexterity of man, who turns to good or evil that inventive 
genius which the Gods bcftow; but who knows no art by which 
he can efcape death. This morality relates to the pretended cri- 
minal, who has had the addrefs to pay the lafl: duties to Polynices, 
notwithftanding the vigilance of tne guards, yet is without the 
means of avoiding the punifliment which attends him. In effedt, the 
Chorus fee Antigone that moment brought in, who had been dif- 
covered near the corps. 

A C T !!• 

The fame foldier who had appeared in the firft ad, returns, not- 
withftanding his oath to the contrary; of which he thinks him- 
felf difengaged by the publick faith ; and brings Antigone to an- 
fwer to the king for what fhe had done. The princcfs, fearlefs of 
the tyrant's power, acknowledges all that the foldier had accufed 
her of, who found her burying Polynices ; and even boafts of the 
deed. Rotrou has rendered the thought of Sophocles very juflJy 
in two lines. 

Creon. *' Vous faifiez done vertu de tranlgrefler mes loix. 
Antig. ^* Qui, pour fervirlesDieux qui font plus que lesroi^/* 


A N T I G O N E. 217 

«« It was neither Jupiter, fays {he, nor Juftice, which dilated 
" your decree > nor was it ever my opinion that any human law could 
'* difpenfe with our obedience to divine laws: laws which, tho' not 
" written, are immutable ; and whofe origin is fo ancient, that it 
*^ cannot be known/' The reft of her fpeech upon fraternal piety 
and contempt of death, has equal force and energy. It is furpri- 
fing that the Chorus, whofe office it is, as Horace fays, to fupport 
and defend virtue, dare not approve of this fortitude in Antigone : 
doubtlefs for fear of offending Creon, This prince, enflamed with 
rage, vows to put her^ to death, and her fifler likewife, whom he 
fulpeds of being an accomplice in her crime. Rut he is particu- 
larly offended with Antigone, who, with a noble pride, defies his 
tyranny. Creon tells her, that fhe is the only peiibn to whom the 
a£tion (he has committed appears jufl and honourable. The prin- 
cefs, pointing to the Chorus, replies, that it is fear alone which 
chains their tongues, and obliges them to conceal their real fen • 

The afflidted Ifmene comes to fliare her fifter*s danger. Creon 
haughtily afks her, if fhe owns herfelf equally guilty with Anti- 
gone? Ves, anfwers Ifmene, I declare myfelf her accomplice; 
** the deed is too glorious to be denied." This fceneis a beautiful 
contefl of generofity. Ifhiene, no longer influenced by her former 
terrors, feigns herfelf guilty, that fhe may fuffer death with het 
fifler. Antigone will not yield her the glory of the crime arid the 
punifhment. •* You did not even approve of my defign, fays (he to 
** her : Ah ! replies the other, I am not afhamed of thy misfortunes^ 
** and I would aflbciate myfelf in thy dangCTS." 

An TIG'. The Gods know which of us is guilty : I will never ac- 
knowledge for friends thofe who love me in profeffions only. 

IsMEN. Do not, my fifler, oScr me fo cruel an indignity, as 
to hinder me from dying with thee. Suffer me at leaft, to ap- 
peafe, by the facrificcof my^ life, the negle<9:ed manes of a 
brother. •' 

Antig. No, leave me the crime, arid the punifhment. 

IsMEN. Alas ! what will become of me if I lofe thee? 

Antig. Afk Creon that queflion, fince thou hafl been mean e- 
nough to acknowledge him for thy mafter. 

IsMEN. Oh, my Antigone, this is too unkind ! 

Antig. I pity thee, Ifmene; but thou hafl, by thy abjeft "rears/ 
merited this punifliment. 

Vol. IL F f Ismen, 

Zi^ A N T I C O N e^ 

Umsn. ^afi! what can I 4o mor^tk^n he^ to die Mrith thee? 

A^Jio. Live- I do not envy thee that happipcfp. 

isMEN. Wretch* that I am* ihall I live, and fee thee peri/hl 

An TIG. Life wa5 thy choice, and death is mine. 

I$MEN. Ah, I foretold what would be the cpnfequence. ef thy 
pious cares I 

Ant iG. Thy prudence will be acceptable in a court like this; 
my fortitude; feeks for applaiifes in the (hades* 

IsMBBf. The crime was coQimon to us both. 

4NTIG. No, Ifipene, live. As fpr me, I have longfince devo- 
ted niy life to the glory of honouring thofe I loved. 

This tputual geperoiity becomes haughtin^fs in Antigone, in If- 
ineneit i^ coqfipaflion; it is tendpfnefs for a filler, whom Hie caur 
not refolve to abandon in her diftrefs. ^« What ! fiiys fhe to the 
" tyrant! wilt thou murder the deftjned wife ofthy fon ?" For He- 
mon^w^s in Ipve with Antigone; but Creoq facrifices this tender 
intereft to his policy and his rage. Antigone regrets nothing but 
her lover: a figh efcapes her for him 5 of rather, (he pities him for 
his misfortune, in having a father fo inhuman. The tyrant incenf-^ 
ed to the laft degree, appe?«-s determined tP put Antigone todeath; 
and orders the two fillers tQ be feparated* Rotrou has gjven us 
thp f^nac friepdly coateft between the prirjceflfes. He has alfp in- 
troduced ^nothpr- betw^ft Antigone apd the wife-of Polyniges : for 
he fuppofes thi^ prinp^ to have brought his wife with him to The^ 
bes, in hop?8 of efta^bliihing himfelf upon the throne. 

From ^1 thip, |he old nien dr^w ^ general moral, upon the mi- 
feries infeparaWe from the condition of mortals ; and particularly, 
upon the ^iftionq with which thp throne oS' Oedipus wis over- 
whelmed. TWr^ is ampng others, a be^^utiful ftropbe upon the 
fupreoRe power of Jupiter; wbich not even eternity can. ftop: and 
vpon his wifl^mjt which «x|en4$ to the future as well aa to the 
paft. In wpther, we l^v* tjie application of a faying of one of the 
fages; namely, that to thofe whom fate pufhes on to their ruin» 
evil has d^ appearance of good. The Chorus h^re have a. view 
ta the prettied crinip gf An^oi^e. 

ACT }I{, 

j^emon, havipg hcfSfd the m^^ancholy news f;pncemi;ig A^go- 
ne, eo.'™^s ^^ of grief to folicit the king hi§ fftth^F in h^r beh^f. 
He fpeaC's t^ ^i™ at firft wit|i a^l the reipeia and modfrati^n of a 

S ^^> 



foDf and eVen fcems to negkd the intercfts pfthe lover j for he 
protefts, thdt he is ready to fubmit his inclinations to thofe of his 
father^ if he judges them wrong-placed; and that however ardent 
his pafiion may be, he will facriiice it to his will. Here Creon 
Hops him, by replying, that he cannot do better than to make fuch 
a facrifice : and to enforce the iieceflity of following this harfh 
maxim> he exaggerafl^s Antigohe's crime, as an inftance of difobe- 
diencc, pernicious to the ftate : and fhews the neceffity a king i^ 
under, to give examples of feverityj which may contain the peo^ 
pie in their duty. 

But in all ihefe feeming fine maxims, it is apparent that the 
man fpeaks more than the king. He cannot pardon the atfront 
of having been braved by a young princefs. The fcene of Diego 
and Rodrigue in the Cid, ha^ a greit fimilarity with this. Diego 
fays like Creon. 

** NoUs n'avons qUu'n honncur: il eft tant de maitreflcs, &c." 

Rofrou concludes this difcourfe of Creoh with a fenterice which 
he did not find in Sophocles, but which follows naturally frbiii it. 
" Sur les deffeins des Rois, comme fur ceux des dieux, 
*« De fideles fujets doivent fermer les yeux, 
** Et foumettant leur fens au pouvoir des couronnes, 
** QjUcUes que foient les loijt, croire qu^elles font bonnes." 

The Chorus approve of what Creon fays. This is apiece of flat* 
tery. They alfo commend, tho' timidly, the anfwer made by He-^ 
mon, of which this is the fubftance : 

** Prudence, oh fithet, is a gift of the Gods ! ahd the greateft 

*• they have beftowed upon rtiortals. It does hot becoma me to 

** contradift the decifiohs of a father ; and there are courtiers 

^ enough ih thy prefonce to applaUdi them. Biit it is thy fons 

** duty to declare te th^e the real ientments of the people. They 

** difguife them through refpd^t; and flattery is the only lar^uage 

"^^ diey dare fpeak ih thy court. Yet I have heard their fecret 

,** murmufs: all Thdbes lariieht Antigone, as worthy of a fate far 

V difierent from that foe is doomed to fuflfer. How! fay the The* 

** bans, does not a princefs whofe piety has led her to expofe her- 

. << felf to death, to procUre d brother the lail good that mortals can 

. ** expert, does not foe deferve a erown rather than death ? Oh 

- '" my father! nothing is deartr to me than thy pre^rvation and 

** the wclftre of theftate; Does hot a fon cn]oj the dory of his 

' "^^ falser f (^U not the father a tender fdtisfaftion in the glory of 

., • ^ F f 2 his 


" his fon ? Suffer me to conjure thee by this mutual afFedion, not 
*' to be determined by that too conunon prejudice, that a king is 
«* always in the right.'* This moral is carried very far, according 
to the manner of the Greeks. He concludes with imploring his 
father to fufFcr his heart to be moved ; and to entertain more 
favourable fentiments towards the princefs. This whole fpeech 
is nobly tranflated by Rotrou -, of which the following lines are 

*« Jamais la verite, cette fille timide, 
** Pour entrer chez les rois ne trouve qui la guide r. 
*' Au lieu que le menfbnge a mille partifkns, 
" Etvous eft pr6fent6 par tous vos courtifans." 

Creonx enrag^ to iee a fon prefumptuous enough to reprove his 
father and his king» treats him more like anflave than a fubje<ft 
and a ion. The conteftis revived by feveral verfes of quick dia- 
logue, written in a way worthy of Sophocles ; and which I would 
give die reader in Rotrou's manner, if that was not rather a lit- 
tle antiquated. The moderation of the fon becomes firmnefs ; 
^he angdr of the father rifes to fury. He gives orders for Antigo- 
ne to be brought and put to death, before, the eyes of Hcmon. 
Hemon retires in a tranfport of grief, after fpeaking thofe beau- 
tiful lines which I take from the French poet, who has fo clofdy 
imitated Sophocles. 

** Ce ne fera jamais, au moins en ma prcfence, 
** Que Ton accomplira cette injufte fentence; 
" Faites i vos flattcurs autorifer vos loix, 
•< Et voyez votre fils pour la derniere fois." 

Creon, that he may leave his fon no opportunity of raifing a ft- 
dition to refcuc the princefs, refolves to naften his vengeance. He 
excepts Ifmena from punifliment, but condemns Antigone to be 
enclofod alive in a cave, with a morcel of bread, that the odium 
©f her death may not fall upon Thebes. Such was the fuperfti- 
tion ef the Pagans, who found out the fecret of fatiating their re-» 
venge, without incurring any euilt; for to ftarve a perfon to 
deaih was judged impious; and tnat the (hades of thofo condemn- 
ed to this punifhment, might not reproach their native earthy 
with having fwallowed them, to be difpenfed with from nourish-- 
them, a fmall quantity of food was given to fuch as were thus bu- 
ried alive. Creon clofos this fcene by aa impious pleafantry. ** An«^ 

o ti- 


" tigone, fays he, will obtain of Pluto> the only duty (he rcvcren- 
*Vces, the privilege of not dying: or rather, fhe will learn, how 
** little advantage it is to pay honours to the infernal divinities." 

As a contraft to this tumult of theatrical bufinefs, the two fol- 
lowing fcenes are extremely pathetic. The old men, rcflcding up- 
on Hemon*s paffion for Antigone, thus exclaim upon the force of 
love. " Oh Love, invincible Deity ! although thou dwelleft on the. 
" cheek of tranfient beauty; yet by thee, . the ftireft fortune 
** is overthrown. Thy empire extends ovef earth, air, and fea : 
*' the Gods, as well as mortals, own thy power. None are exempt- 
** ed from thy darts; they fix thy fatal fury in the mind. By thee, 
♦* even the wife and good are plunged in guilt. It is thou, oh po- 
♦* werful Divinity, who haft raifed a new tcmpeft in the wretched 
** houfe of Ofedipus !" The Chorus cannot rcfufe fome tears to the 
fate of Antigone, whofc nuptial bed, fay they, is a tomb. 

Antigone and the Chorus make the fccond fcene. She comes ta 
utter her laft complaint, after the manner of the ancients; and 
which the Latins call noviffima verba. We have the fame cuftom 
obferved in the Iphlgenia in Aulis.* Nothing can be more af- 
fedHng than thefe pafTages in all the Greek poets; among whom^, 
thefe lamentations were certainly in ufe; 

Antig. Ye citizens of Thebes! behold an^ unhappy princefs, 
who is entering upon that laft fad journey, which all mortals muft 
take; and who now fees rfie fun never to fee it more. Eternal 
night> which will involve the whole human race, conduds me 
while alive, to the gloomy fhores of Acheron. This is the marri- 
age which was prepared for me. Alas, Hymen kindles not his 
torch for me ! for me the temples have not relbunded vvith the 
nuptial ibng ! 

She compares herfelf to Niobe, who was changed into a rock of 
marble. The Chorus praife her more than they confole-her; 
therefore flic thus attefts the people: *^ Oh Thebes^ oh citizens^ 
*' di yefprings of Dirce; and you, ye neighbouring forefts, be wit-. 
•* neffes of the barbarous law which plunges me into a-prifon, ftiall 
** I call it.? or a tomb, among the dead, or living? or rather from the 
•* fociety of both, unwept and unlamented by thofe who arc dear* 
" eft to mc.'* 

* Iphlgenia io Aulis. Aft V. in the firft volume of this work. 


X21 A N T I O O N E 

Uponfome words of the Choras, which recall the remembrance 
of Oedipus, whofe misfortunes Fall upon her, Antigone exclaims 
again, " Oh cruel, what a wound have you opened, by pkcing again 
** before my eyes the fat? of the Labdacides! Oh ye furies, who 
" prefided at me marriage of my mother! Oh horrid marriage' 
^' to what parents do 1 owe my birth ! to what a deftiny was I re- 
y ferved ! Oh my unhappy brother j under what fatal aufpiccs 
" didft thou become a huujand! It is thou, my dear Polynices, jvho, 
** dead as thou art, draggeft me alive into my tomb." 

This is a flight flcetch of Antigone's laft complaints; which, it is 
probable, have a refemblancfc to thofe of Jephthah*s daughter : * 
when (he went up to the mountains to bewail her virginity, be- 
fore flie fubmitted to a facrifice, either real or myfterious, Wc 
ought not therefore to tax Sophocles with an error here, as if thefe 
lamentations were inconfiftcnt with that fortitude which makes 
fo ftrikiug a part in Antigone's charafter ; for a perfon to run to 
death, without fliewing the leaft concern^ is not heroijQn^ but bru- 
tal infenfibility. Indeed wc often fee wretches who fmile at the 
approach of their fate : yet we ought not to fuppofe th^ have 
furmounted the natural horror of death ; but their underftanding 
being weak, and their hearts intoxicated with guilt, they are in- 
capable of feeling or perceiving the value of lifci in the heat of 
battle e4>eciiaily. Butcalnily and deliberately to expofe one-sfclf to 
death, and yet to be fenfible of the greatnefs of the facrifice; this 
is true heroifm. The complaints which Antigone makes after 
this effort, are the lafl fighs of nature : whichi far from reprefllng 
the noble fentiriients, force them more Arongly into notice, 

Creon puts an end to this moving fpedlacle, by an unheard-oF 
ftroke of tyranny. He exprelTes his difpleafure, that the princefs 
ihouldfb long protract her complaints; and gives orders for her 
being inftantly led to the cave ; protefting, that neither he nor the 
Thebans will be polluted by this new kind of death. 

" Oh fepulchre, cries Antigonei Oh cavern, oh my nuptial bed! 
** thou then wilt be my everlafting dwelling. I go to mtfet my 
" loved relations in the (hades. Proferpine has dqjrivedmeof 
•* them all. -f / dye the lafi of this unhappy race^ and the moft mife^ 
«* rable.*" This is the literal fenfe of Sdphocles, which Racing 
without his perceiving it perhaps has given us in this line. So ex- 

• In the book of Judges, Ch^f). 1 1. y. \^. and fdno\<'iftg. 
tRicinc^sPhedra. Aa I.Scenc 3d. 



tretnelv oatura) ia the thought, and {6 much he ftored his mind 
with the turm of Sophocles and Euripidps, Aptigone continues 
thus: " Doonjed to perifh in the blooni of youth, I encourage 
'* the foothing hope, that my prelence will ^e welcon>« to Ocddr^ 
''^ pus gnd Jocafta ; but efpecially to my hrqther. Ye?, ye dear 
** ftiades, it is to thefe hands you owe thefe funeral honours which 
** you have received : and thou, Polynices, tliou knoweft that my 
•' jife IS a fecrifice to my tendernefs fop thee. Jt is §ft€fugh, I have 
•^performed my duty: my crime is my glory. This j^ftice, the 
*^ good and generous Will afford me. Had I been a rpother, and 
" could not but with thefacrilice of my life have paid the laft duties 
*^ to a hufband, I would not then have defied ^ pu)>lic law." 
She means, that her tendernefs for. her children woi^ld have vvith- 
held her from performing the funeral honours due to a* deceafed. 
hufband, with the danger of her life. She gives a reafon for ma- 
king this difference between a hufband and a brother. She might 
have another hufband (he fays, but Oedipus and Jocafla being 
dead, fhe could never hope for another ^r^ther« Delic^tQ as this 
fentiment is, it would have aridijCDlqus a^r iji our laaguQge* 9nd b^ 
very different from the true idea of SppfeocJes. For it is th^ 
poet's inteqtioq to exalt the charad:er of Antigone, 1^ ihf^iog her 
entirely innocent, a|id freeing l^erfjFQm th^^fu^is^ioftof iMvin^ vn^ 
4er die maflc of piety, ^pmmitf»4 .*5^ .^ffwifi© ftgaiaft tbe^.la>vs. 
^ It ^s foF a duty fo }vift, fo pioi|s, coatinUes (hf 1 th2(,t Cfspn has 
^* condemned m^s to perifh» abandoiied by th^i<^ whQ owe me th^ 
** tribute of their tear§.at l^af^.. Y§ Go4$j whkh of your U^ws 
" have I violated ? Bt^t why do I invp^e ih^ QQd§ ? wh^it fucpour • 
•' can I expert ffom theK^, fipce it iftmy pi«^ that h^fi 4wwn up- 
*^ on ipe a, puniihgieiit ^\if to the wpipiw, Ah what <k> I fay ? 
** Ijf my death is decreed hy heaven^ I yield to if, If J* feav^ fjnr 
'* ned, I aik pardon ; and fubmit to giy pui>ifbpMfxt r b^t if the . 
*< law which cpHdemnft me be unjufl, lyxay tbf? %ulho?s pf it fuffer 
" all thofe miseries vyitji which I am leaded aqis^." 

Creon ag^in coof^raands the guards t9 t^I(p itfidg^B^ a>yay; and' 
this&^oe tu£n3 infenfihly into an irrtf/lud^: for (bt} prnicefsi, %s 
ihe goe^ out^ protefb againfl the inj^^i^e £he ft^H^r^i aod reproves- 
the old nien with the indii^^rence with which thpy beheld aprin— 
cefs fo inhumanly treated. The old men an^w^r 90 Qttier>yife 
than by qtioting iptfiq tXwf^Us of t^ lik^ ^ &9t^»p j fuch as . 
diat of Dana^aiid Opph^tts, who j^rifhed mi^ferah^ i although des- 
cended from. 911 i})\)ft^9Q9<»(e; fo in«vitatd§ ace thft de«r«^ Q^ 



dcftiny. It is their fear of the tyrant, that makes them afcribc to 
deftiny a death which they know to be the effeSt of tyranny : 
but the poet was willing to give a true pidture of the courts of 
kings, to ftrike the Athenians with the natural refledipns that they 
made upon their liberty. 


Tirefias enters, led by one of his domefticks. This fcene is ex- 
a<9Jy fuch as the old poet I have already ib often quoted, has ren- 
dered it. I (hall give the beginning of it here, without being ap^ 
prehenfive that his natural expreffions will degrade the fimplicity 
of the Greek dialogue. 

Tires. *' La lumiere d'ua feul fert a deux que nous fommcs: 
" C'eft aux hommes auffi de conduire les hommes. 

Creon. " Que nous apprendrez-vous, bon vieillard, qui fans yeux 
" Lilez fi clairement dans les fecrets des Dieux, &c.*' 

Here Tirefias relates what has happened; namely, a bloody 
battle between the birds, rejeAed facrifices, and other circumftances 
of fatal augury. From all this, he concludes, that Thebes is threat- 
ened with new misfortunes, on account of the obftinacy and-cru- 
elty of Creon towards Antigone and Polynices. 

Creoh, tranfported with rage, plainly taxes the prophet with hav- 
ing uttered a venal prcdidion. Tirefias, in revenge for this infult, 
pronounces this terrible oracle: ^ Know, fays he to Creon, that be- 
fore the fun has finiihed his courfe, the death of one of thy fons 
A all revenge Polynices and Antigone. Them thou unjuftly depriv- 
edft of fcpulchral honours : her thou cruelly haft entombed alive. 
Thefe are the fad effcdts of thy tyranny, and of an impiety 
hated by the Gods. Already the Furies, the revengers of violat- 
ed duties, are preparing to torment thee : foon wilt thou be plun-^ 
•ged into the fame miferies. Now judge whether intereft has un- 
chained my tongue. Still more and greater forrows do I forefee 
for thee: foon fliall thy court refound with cries and lamentati- 
ons : foon (halt thou behold thofc cities \vherein the aihes of the 
dead have been violated, rife up in arms againff thee. Thefc are 
the inevitable darts my indignation pours upon thee. ' Let us go 
child, lead me out of Ais palace.^' 

Tirefias retires : the <i;horus are terrified by his threats, but 
Creon much more; yet he thintes it hard that he ffeould be forced 
-to relax his vengeance* ^Heafk^^dvice^ of the Chorus. Fear i^ now 



more powerful than the defire of pleafing their king. They ad- 
vife him not to ballance a moment longer, but to deliver Antigone, 
and bury Polynices. He yields, although reludlantly : he even 
gives orders for that purpofe, and retires, to have them obeyed. 

The interlude of the Chorus confifts of a hymn to Bacchus, 
the tutelary divinity of Thebes. They endeavour to appeafe his 
wrath, and prevail upon him to turn afide from Thebes thofe mif- 
fortunes predi<5ted by Tireiias. 

A C T V. 

An officer of the palace begins the iblution of Ae intrigue, by 
the dreadful manner in which he declares to the Chorus, that the 
fining fortune of Creon is eclipfed. The quefUons of the old 
men draw on an explanation : at length he tells them, that He- 
TOon has killed himfdf upon the body of Antigone, who had ha- 
Aened her own death. The oracle is found to be but too certain. 

This is the reflexion made by the Chorus. But is not this ora- 
cle too fuddenly fulfilled? Could the prophet have any merit from 
a predidlion which was accompli/hed, or at leafl accompliifhing at 
the very time that he pronounced it? Should not Creon have been 
wife enough to have forefeen this accident ? and ought he not to 
have placed guards upon his fon^ as well as upon the two prin- 
ceiTes? However this may be, Eurydice the wife of Creon, alarm- 
ed at the confufed exclamations fhe hears as fhe is coming out of 
the palace, to go to the temple, defires the Thcbans to acquaint 
her with the caufe. 

The officer begins his recital with telling the queen that he 
will not flatter her mifery ; and that what he has to fay will over-* 
whelm her with grief. He then relates how Creon, incited by a 
too late repentance, had performed the lafl duties to the mifera* 
ble remains of Polynices j and, that afterwards haflening towards 
the cave, which had been opened to take Antigone from thence, 
he heird a voice of a perfbn, whofe cries increafing as he approach- 
ed, he knew to be his fon. ** Ah! exclaimed he : it is my fon I 
hear: run, fly, enter the cave, deliver me from this horrid doubt." 
We defcended into the cave, but oh, what a fhocking fpedacle was 
there prefented to our eyes ! Antigone hanging by the fatal knot 
fhe had formed of her veil. Hemon held her in nis arms, utter- 
ing the mofl afFe<aing lamentations for the death of his miflrefs, 
and exclaiming againfl the cruelty of his father. The king arrives, 
he fees his fon. ** Ah, Unhappy youth! cries he; what art thou a- 

VoL, IL G g bout 


bout to do? what is diy deiign ? by what fatality art thou thus 
hurried to thy deftrudioa ? come out, my ibu ; come oUt» of this 
tomb : it is thy father who conjures thee. But Hemon, cafting a 
furious glance at hun> difdaicied his intreaties ; and all the anfwer 
he made, was to draw his (word, and advance towards him. The 
king fled. Hemon turning all his rage againft himfdf, pierced his 
own breaft ^ and embracing Antigone, gave up his life in a torrent 
of blood in her arms. Thus are the lovers once more united in 
death! A terrible example of the fatal confequences which attend 
the unjuft anger of kings. Here the officer ends his melancholy 
narration. Eurydice, who is the mother of Hemon, after having 
heard it, retires without fpeaking a word. This affo^ing filence 
is very artfully imagined; a more eloquent grief in a mother 
would have exprefled lefs, and would not have fufficiently prepa^^ 
red us for the event. The Chorus and the officer inmiediately fuf* 
ped fomewhat of the queen's defign. They tremble for her life : 
a moment afterwards their fears feem grouncUeis : at length they re* 
Adve to follow her, that fhe may not have time to execute her pur- 
pofe ; but, as the old men are haftening after her, they meet Cre-- 
on, whole defpair flops them. This unhappy father holds the 
body of his fon in his arms ; and entering, exclaims, ^* Wretch 
that I am, what has my madneis done? Oh my relentlefs rigor, 
to what has it reduced me ! Oh Thebans, behold my fon, mur-^ 
dered by his own hand ! barbarous decree ! Oh my fi>n, my dear 
ion, it is 1, it is thy father, who has facriiiced both thee and thr 

He acknowledges that his repentance came too late : iruitlefs 
repentance, which now tortures him with unutterable pangs. He 
continues his complaints, till a £lave interrupts him, to gi?e him 
another fubjeA for his tears. 

Creon. Ah what can befal me more dreadful ? 

Slave. The queen is dead ; fhe has flabbed herfiJf. 

Creon. Oh Pluto, oh ye infernal fhades, what delight do you 
take, in thus affli<5ting amiferable wretch! whatfay'fl thou*? what 
is it thoH hafl come to tell me ? Ah, art thou come to torment 
one that is already dead ? I am fb ; fpeak, what hail thou to de^ 
clare? that Eui^dice has facrificed herfelf. 

Slave. Thou mayft behead her with thineowneyes. Lookthetae. 

[He feints to the body of Eurydke^ 
in the ^ck part aftbefcene.'] 

Creon. Alas ! ajid was this horrible ipe^M:le ftill in reierve fi>r 



me? what further woes await me? I hold the body of my fon in 
my arms, and fee his mother ftretched dead at niy feet. Oh my 
Eurydice^ my wife, my fon! 

Slave. It was before this altar, that (he gave herfelf the fatal 
wound, after having firft lamented her former hufband, M egarus, 
and the fad nuptials of her murdered fon. Thou oh king, ihe load- 
ed with Imprecations, as a parricide ! 

Creon. My blood freezes in my veins* Oh friends, why do 
you not ftrike ? why do you not pierce this breaft. [He has nofword\ 
the Greeks never wore /words at borne.] Into what an abyfs of mi- 
ieries am Iplunged ? 

Slave. The dying queen declared thou wert thyfelf the fburce 
of all thefe miferies. 

Creon. What was the manner of her death? 

Slave. After hearing of her fon*s unhappy fate, (he plunged 
^ poniard in her bofom. 

Creon. Ah barbarian, I am the only caufe of her fad fall ! yes, 
my dear Euiydice, it is I who have facrificed thee : but I will do 
juftice to myfelf. Come then, my friends, lead me to death. 
I am nothing now but a vain (hade, a phantom. 

After fomc other fentiments which exprefs his deipair, he re- 
tires ; and the Chorus conclude the piece with a fentence. " Mo- 
deration and rc(peft to the Gods, they fay, are the chief fupports 
f)fthc felicity of kings; and that a too late repentance, the fruit 
of great crimes, is the laft punifhmcnt with which heaven hum- 
bles their pride." This is, in eflfeft, the end and defign of this tra- 
gedy. Creon, intoxicated with the fuprcme power which he affu- 
med a fecond time, upon the death of the two fons of Oedipus, 
abufes it, in the beginning of his reign, to fuch a degree as to 
fail in his refpedt to the infernal deities, and to be guilty of thp 
higheft inhumanity to his relations. The chaftifcment he receives 
for it opens his eyes ; but he is wife too late, and his repentance 

It cannot be denied, that the whole condudt of this piece is 
line; and that, notwithftanding its great (implicity, the paflions of 
terror and pity are carried to the greateft height. The incidents 
arife one out of the other ; and all lead naturally to the end. There 
is indeed a fault in the too great fecurity of Creon, who, when 
his fon takes his final leave of him, never thinks of ordering him 
to be detained : yet it ought to be confidered, that Creon is at that 
time fo much under the influence of his rage, that in fuch a ftate 
of mind it is natural enough for him, not to fuipe<5l that his 

G g 2 fon's 


fon's paffion for Antigone is capable of producing fo fatal an^ efFcft 
of dclpain Beiides, this old politician^ like the Acomat of Ra«- 
cine, in Bajazet, knows very little of love, and like him he may fay 
after the event, 

** Ah, de tant de confeils, ^v^nement finiftre! 

•* Prince aveugle, ou pWtot trop aveugle Miniftre*', &c. 

After all, this fault in the charadler of Creon, if we muft allow 
it to be a fault, is produdlive of the grandeft cataftrophe imagina- 
ble. On one fide, we have Hemon expiring at the feet of Anti- 
gone; on the other, a mother unable to furvive her fon; not to 
fpeak of the fituation into which thefe fevere chaftifements of 
heaven throws the wretched Creon; who, notwithftanding his 
guilt, becomes an objedt of compaffion, when we fee him punifli- 
ed as a huiband, a father^ and a king. 

It would not be juft to pafs over in filencc the Antigone of Ror 
trou, of which the reader has feen fome pafiages here. He has 
not, like the Italians, made mere tranflations of the antient pieces, 
but he has turned them after his own manner, without lofing 
any of the efiential fcenes. The misfi:)rtune is, that in his 
time, they were ignorant of the rules of the drama, or, what 
amounts to the fame thing, the delicacies of probability. In 
treating this fubjefl:, for example, he was apprehenfivc that 
he fhould want matter; and therefore, inftead of beginning 
his adtion at the point where Sophocles begins it, that is, im* 
mediately after the Thebaid, or the deaths of Polynices and Eteo- 
cles, he thought it necefTary to blend the two tragedies in one, 
which is an offence againft the unity of adtion. 

He has offended no lefs againft the unities of time and place, 
rules which were far from being ftridlly obferved in the laft age: 
but even, this fault has afforded him the means of adorning his tra^^ 
gedy with fome excellent fcenes. His firft part of his^ Thebaid exn 
tends from the beginning to the third fcene of the third adt. We 
fhall, in its place, take notice of the-tragcdies of Euripides, Seneca, 
and Racine, on the fame hiftory.. Here we are only to confider 
the fecond part of Rotrou's : it is properly a continuation of the 
Antigone of Sophocles ; but all that Sophocles, to preferve the 
unity of place, throws into narration,, Rotrou brings into adlion. 
Thus, the deaths of Antigone, Hemon, and Eurydice, which arc 
related in the Greek poet, the French author reprefents on the 
flage ; but then the audience is tranfported from the palace to the 
rock, and there fee the adions of Hemon, and the king his father. 
It is this liberty which has rendered the fcenes more animated, 



n^re lively, and, more ftrlking: love, rage,Ta^d defpair, ^ak there 
with eloquence and dignity; all the charadters are well fupported 
to the laft, except Ifmene's, who concludes the tragedy with thefe 
two lines: 

" Ldche ne puis-je done faire un dernier effort! 

" Mourrai-je mille fois par la peur d'une mort ?" 
Rotrou has followed Sophocles in reprelenting Ifinene prudent 
and generous ; for (he is willing to fharc the crime and the punifh* 
mentof her fifter; but why, on a fudden, degrade fier by a fingle 
ftroke, at the conclufion of the piece ? what had this princefs to 
do in the cataftrophe ? Sophocles has taken care not to introduce 
her on that occafion. Creon had ordered her to be arrefted, but 
had exempted her from the whole rigour of the law : this was 
fufEcient. In this, and in the other imitations of Rotrou, one can- 
not butbe aftonifhed that this poet, who had"certainly agreatgenius, 
and was able to underftand and tranflate the ancients, did .not ra- 
ther attend to the more effential parts; that is, to the good fcnfe 
of thofe authors who carried their love of probability fo far as to 
facriiice to it thofe beauties which their genius offered them, 
whenever fuch beauties were out of place. 

Rotrou feared above every thing, like the writers of our own 
time, that extreme fimplicity which contents itfelf with a narrow 
fulled; .which^ according to the excellent remarks of Boileau*, 
is much more ncceffary in tragedy than in epic poetry ; whicH 
may fubfiftvery well without it. The reafon is equal in both cafes} 
as in both cafes the probability is better preferved, the attention 
of the fpeftator is lefs divided, his emotions tend more. diredUy, 
and in a more even train, to one end, the paiEons are carried on 
more vehemently, without interuption;. and all that can be added 
beyond this, inftead of decorating the adion, does but burthen and 
confufe it. One can fay,u at leaft,. nothing of the Antigone of Ro- 
trou, or of any of the pieces filled with epifodes, but that it is a 
great and* wild hillory of many fadls, which glide fucceflively be- 
fore the eyes, and of which none leave a lading impreffion ; be.- 
caufe their number is too great, without fufficient connections. 
Here is indeed a feledtion of beautiful fcenes ; but thefe fcenes with 
all their graces, do not form a whole, either delightful or affefting; 
and they fail, if I may be allowed to fay fo, by endeavouring too 
much to delight and affedl. The tragedy of Sophocles, artlefs as 
it is, left a deep imprefBon upon the heart, when it was afted at 
Athens. It was exhibited thirty two times, and its reputation 
raifed the author to the government of Samos. 

* Preftce to the Lutriiu 




VF we ihay give credit to Cicero and Valerius Maximus, Sopho- 
* cles was near a hundred years old when he compofed this piece; 
and yet this alone was fufficient to give him the firft rank among 
the tragic poets. In our time^ it wiU not be thought of as it was 
by them, unlefs we enter into the interefts of the Athenians, to 
whom this tragedy muft have given great pleafure , becaufe the 
poet fixes the tomb of Oedipus among them. A glorious and poli- 
tical monument, * which rendered the Athenians formidable to 
the Thebans. We ihall not repeat here what wc bave already 
faid upon this fubjeft, nor what pafTed in the fenate of Athens, 
onoccafion of that piece. 

Oedipus at Colona, is the fequel of the former Oedipus, which 
the reader has feen in the firft pan of this work. This bljind 
prince, banifh'cd from his kingdom, stnd forced to wander from 
country to counttry, comes by chance to Athens, and ftops in a 
place called Colona, near the temple of the Eumenides. There 
he calls to mind an oracle which he had received from Apollo ; 
namely, that he fhould die act Cololia ; and that his tomb (hould 
be to the people of Athens a prcfage of vidtory over aM their ene- 
mies, particularly over the Thebans, if they ventured to attack 
them. This work was compofed by Sophocles, not only in favour 

• A long time after this work was com- 
pofed, I read the Abbe Sallier's learned re- 
marks upon the Oedipus atCdiona. (Vol. 
VL of the memoirs of literature, p. 385.) 
It gave me great pleafure to find, that we 
agreed in the opinion, that this piece is of 
the kind of thofe which were allegorical ; 
and in v9hkh theipe^^tors faw alhifions to 
the affairs of the times. But, I acknow*- 
ledge, that the uncertain date of this trage- 


dy, and the impoflibility of explaining and 
connefting the alluHons in it, with any 
predfe events of the Peloponnefian war, 
hare prevented me from undertaking this 
explanation, as I have ventured to do of 
Ariftophanes. (See the Abbe Sallier*s dif- 

^ See third difcourfe in the firft part of 
this work. 



of Athene, hm<o qpUhj^^t^ the piacf of his Ivftf^^ \arWich W4$ Cor 
lona. The peribns of the drani^ are> Oedipus^ Aatigoae, ^nd If- 
roepa; the daughters €tf Qedipus; Polynices, one of hi^ fons; 
Creon, his brother in Uw; Thefcus, king of Thebes; and a Cho- 
rus, compofed of ancient Athenians. The fccne is fixed at the en- 
trance of the temple of the vemnf^blf Goddejffis^ tp ufc the phrafe qf 
antiquity, that is to fay^ the Furies. 

A C T L 

The fcenc reprefcnts a temple, a facred grove, with fbme hou- 
{ts at a diftance. An old blind man enters, leaning on the arm 
of a young woman. This is Oedipus, lecj by his daughter Apti- 
gone. He makes himfelf known to the audience, by aiking XQ 
what place he is arrived, what will be the period of his wanderings, 
and who will deign to receive an unhappy king, rejcfted by all 
mankind, who requires but little, and whom fortune has taught 
to be contented with little f • Fatigued with travelling, he defires 
his daughter to feat hin^ in fome place, either facred or prophane; 
where he may wait in quiet, till he knows how the people of the 
country will receive an unhappy exile. 

. Antigone looks around her. She fees a city at a diftance, fortified 
with towers, which flie knows to be Athens- She is ignorant 
of the name of the place where they had flopped ; but from the 
laurel, the olive, and vine, that were planted in it, fhe concludes it 
to be facred: fhe places her father upon a flone, and as fhe goes 
forward, in order to make fome difcoveries concerning the inhabi- 
tants, fhe is met by a man, who tells Oedipus, that he muft in- 
ftantly remove from the place where he is fitting becaufe the 
'grove is facred; that no profane perfbn was permitted to enter 
into it ; and that it was confecrated to the daughters of the night, 
the venerable Eumenides. Oedipus draws a fortunate omen from 
this intelligence, and puts himfelf under the protection of thefe 
gloomy divinities. 

The pafTenger, feized with terror, neither dares of his own au- 
thority to drive a flranger from a facred place,, nor conceal what 
he has feen: he thinks it his duty to inform the inhabitants. 
However, Oedipus draws from him fbme account of the country 
It is all confecrated to Prometheus, and to Neptune, who upon 
finking the ground with his trident, a horfe came out of it; and 
from this it was called the equefirian colony. The place where 



Oedipus happened to ftop at firft was one of the bulwarks of « 

Athens ; and called the iron way, and is the fcene defcribed, in | 

which there is nothing interefting to us. Oedipus is alfo informed, 
that Athens is governed by a king named Thefeus. It is furpri- 
fing, that a prince likeOedipus, (hould not know whether a neigh- 
bouring ftate was a republic or a monarchy; but it afterwards ap- 
pears, that Oedipus afks this queftion for a feint, that' he may not 
be known, and to gain fuller intelligence. He intreats fome of 
the paffengers (for there are feveral fuppofed -to be there, one of 
which fpeaks for the others) to Thefeus and intr?at him 
to come there; and to affure him at the fame time, that he will 
have no caufe to repent of this complaifance. " Why, whatfer- 
*" vice, replies the paflenger, can a miferable man like you, deprived 
" of fight, do to a king?" Oedipus tells him that he will revealfome 
fecrets to Thefeus of great confequence to the ftate. The paflen* 
jger, aftonifhed at the nrmnefs and refolution of the old man, whom : 

'he begins to confider as an illuftrious perfon, perfecuted by for- i 

tune, runs to inform the inhabitants of Colona of what had hap- 
pened, and to know of tliem wJiether or not this ftranger muft be 
forced to quit fo venerable a place. ^ 

When he is gone, Oedipus addrefles himfelf to the Eumenides, 
and implores them to be favourable to him, to receive him, and 
to confirm the oracle he had received from Apollo. That God 
had predifted to him, that in the temple of the Furies he . 
ihouldfindanend of his misfortunes; and that hisprefence there 
ftiould be a fatal prefage for thofe who had baniflied him, and a 
happy one for them wno fhould receive him. He believes that 
the Eumenides themfelves have invifibly conducted him ; fince, af- 
ter fo toilfome a journey, their temple oflfered itfelf as a retreat 
for him. '* Oh Goddefles, adds he, fulfil this oracle! and if the 
^' dreadful miferies which have fallen upon me are by you judged 
** too little for Oedipus to fufFer, oh deign to let me tafte the quiet 
"of a death fo long and earneftJy defired. And thou, O Athens! 
" O city, juftly refpedled ! have pity on the ftiade of one who was 
** once a king, and now a wretched exile !" 

Antigone interrupts her father, to tell him that flie perceives a 
troop of old men of the country, advancing towards them. The 
father and the daughter conceal themfelves in the thickeft part of 
the grove, that they may hear their difcourfe. The old men, without 
knowing him, feek him with the utmoft eagernefs, as a profane 
\wret(Jh, an exile, a criminal conftrained by his ill fortune to pol- 


lute by his prefence, a place facred even from the view of mortals. 
They look round with anxious impatience: Oedipus fliews him- 
felf again; and the old men, moved to compaffion at the fight of 
a man who does not appear to them to have merited fuch diftref- 
fes, cry out to him to quit the facred grove. They even refufe to 
hear what he has to fay, till he comes from that holy place. All 
this fuperftitious ceremony is an artifice of the theatre, and (hews 
in what veneration the Furies were held by the people of Athens. 
** We muft obey, fays Antigone to her father ; tnou art a ftranger 
" here, and therefore ought to fear and relped all that are feared 
" and refpedled by the inhabitants." In effeft, the Greeks had 
agreed to reverence the divinities and the laws of the countries 
through which they travelled. Oedipus is accordingly obliged to fub- 
mit ; he confents to quit his afylum, but exprefles his apprehenfion 
of fufFering fome infult. The old men affure him of the contrary ; 
and he paffes over to the other fide, where, aflifted by Antigone, 
he feats himfclf upon a ftone. 

All this is written with the utmoft fimplicity, and it is highly 
probable that it was aded fo likewife. If this fcene appears to 
us to want dignity, it is becaufe our manners are altered: dig- 
nity of fentiment is the fame now as in the age of Sophocles; but 
that of manner is very different. We mufl then determine 
that dignity of manners is an arbitrary and temporary thing; but 
that of fentiments is always the fame. 

The old men interrogate Oedipus, concerning his country and 
his misfortunes} but he is afhamed to make himfelf known. 
'* Alas, what hafl thou to fear, fays his daughter to him ! canfl thou 
** be more wretched than thou art at prefent ?" The unhappy prince 
confents to fatisfy the impatient curiofity of the Chorus ; but he 
does fo, like Phedra, by degrees and vsrith great confufion. Tbou know-- 
efi the Jon of the Amazon^ fays Phedra to her confidant. " Have you 
not heard of the fon of Laius, fays Oedipus." The Chorus utter 
a cry of terror and aftonifhment, and afk him if he is indeed that 
Oedipus fo famous for his misfortunes. He conjures the old 
men not to look upon him with terror and deteftation; but he 
finds it impoflible to calm their minds ; and this horror which his 
name only infpires, completes his mifery. " I am then the moft 
'* wretched of mortals, cries he. Alas my daughter ! what ftiali 
*^ we do now?" He has indeed but too jufl caufe for doubt and 
anxiety ; for the Chorus feem ready to retradt the promifes they 
had given him, through an apprehenfion that they (hall fhare his ill 

Vol. II. H h for* 


fortune ; as if his ill fortune was contagious, and was capable of 
fpreading ruin through all the ftates where Oedipus appeared. 

" Oh Athenians! fays Antigone; you who refoe<a the facred 
** laws'of hofpitality, fince the voice only of my father, who is lefs 
" criminal than unfortunate, makes you tremble with horror, yet 
** be not infenfible to mine; it is for him that I endeavour to move 
" you with my prayers. Ah, do not rejedl the fupplications of a 
'* princefs*, who, in your looks can read the motions of your minds; 
" a fatisfaftion denied my unhappy father! Alas, we have no re- 
** fource but in you ! you hold the place of Gods to us. Do not re- 
'* fufe us a favour which I afk of you in the name of all you hold 
** moft dear." 

The Chorus are moved, but religion prevails over their pity* 

Oedipus now fpeaks; and (hews the Coloniates that, under the 
appearance of a mifplaced piety, they are in danger of committing 
a crime. *^ What a difgrace, fays he, will it be to the Athenians, 
" fo celebrated for their benevolence to unhappy flrangers, fhould 
" they refufe to receive a king, affliiSled for involuntary crimes ! 
** yes, purfueshe, I became guilty without my knowledge; and thofe 
** who have fo barbaroufly baniftied me from my country are not 
** ignorant of the injuftice they have treated me with. Do not, I 
** conjure you, in the name of the Gods, by oflfering me any in- 
** fult, violate the public faith upon which I depended when I 
'* quitted this facred afylum : do not difhonour the Gods, under a 
*' pretence of honouring them, and conceive that they look with 
" difintereftednefs upon the good and the wicked ; and that wicked- 
'* nefs never efcapes the punilhment it defcrves." 

He defires they will allow him a few moments only, till he has 
fpoke to Thefeus. He tells them, that he came to Athens, purified 
and confecrated by the Gods, to bring the Athenians numberlefs 
advantages; that he has it in his power to reward them for the 
favour they will do him, by not violating in his perfon the laws of 
hoipitality. The Chorus are prevailed upon by thefe arguments, 
to wait till the king is made acquainted with this important affair : 
important indeed to the Athenians; but, which to us, feems of lit- 
tle confequence. This is the reafon, if I may fay it once again, 
which makes this like many ancient pieces ; tho' it be very inte- 
refting in itfelf, improper to affect a modern reader. 

• The Abbe Sallier gives another fenfe makes f$r him. She whs has not incwrred the 
to this ^^^9S3i%ty by a ftnall corrc£lion. At wrath of heaven. See vol. V. of the Acad, of 
fafl bear favour ahlj the requefl his daughter Ixifcrip^ pag. Si. 



While Oedipus is talking to the Chorus, Antigone perceives a 
woman af a diftance mounted on a horfe and covered with an um- 
' brcUo, after the manner of the Theffalian women. As flie comes 
nearer, Antigone thinks fhe refemhlesher fifterlfmena. Accordingly, 
it is this princefs who alights; and, with tranfports of tendernefs, 
embraces her father and fitter. This meeting is fo much the more 
affecting, as that limena had with great difficulty difcovered the 
rout they had taken. She had ftolen out of the palace at Thebes, 
with a faithful attendant, to follow the fortune of an unhappy fa- 
ther. Oedipus, (hewing the difference between his fons and his 
daughters fays, that the former have abandoned him, and, like 
the Egyptians, who ftays in their houfes and employ themfelves in 
the works of women, while their wives attend to public affairs ; 
fo his fons keep themfelves concealed in their palaces, and leave 
their fitters to fuffer cold and heat, hunger and thirtt, with a ba- 
niftied father. 

Oedipus afks what difcords at prefent difturb his family, for 
he forefees that Ifmena comes to bring him fatal news. This 
princefs, without entering into the detail of what (he had fufFered, 
in endeavouring to find out her father, relates all that had happen- 
ed, fincc the time he was exiled, from Thebes. She tells him, 
that Eteocles and Polynices had been undetermined at firft whe- 
ther they fhould afcend the throne^ or yield it to Creon their 
uncle, that they might not draw upon Thebes thofe miferies 
which attend an incettuous race : but, that afterwards burning 
with ambition, they conceived a hatred for each other, which no- 
thing can extinguifh but their blood. That Eteocles had baniftied 
his elder brother Polynices, who had been forced to take refuge 
in Argos: from whence it was reported, diathe was returning, 
fupportcd by a new alliance, in order to deliver up Thebes as a 
prey to the Argives. ** Thefe arc not mere reports only, adds (he : 
'* they are well-known fafts j and I know not what period the 
** Gods have decreed for our misfortunes.'* " How I refumes Oedi- 
pus, can you hope that the Gods will ever become propitious to us, 
and terminate our woes ?" ♦• Yes, replies Ifinena, I depend upoij 
their Oracles." 

Oedipus. What Oracles ? 

IsMENA. The Gods have declared, that thy people, who are 
guilty of thy banijQbment, (hall feek thee again, cither living or 

H h a She 


She informs her father, that Creon would foon follow him for 
this purpofe : that he was determined to preferve him, and detain 
him not in Thebes, but on the frontiers, knowing that his tomb 
in a foreign land would be fatal to the Thebans : that fome de- 
puties lately returned from Delphos had publilhed thefe oracles; 
and that her two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, were informed 
of all. "Ah the traitors! fays Oedipus, they know this; and 
** their eager defire to reign, renders them infenfibleto the afflictions 
*' of afathcr:" Herehe repeats thofe terrible imprecations with which 
he had loaded them both before. " The barbarians blufhed not to exile 
'* me, their father; they called this exile voluntary. Poor excufe ! 
*' ought they to have liftened to the firft emotions of a father's def- 
'* pair ? Time had begun to calm his griefs ; and then it was that 
** the Thebans executed this inhuman decree. My unnatural fons 
** were not afhamed to confent to it. They preferred the luftre of 
*• a crown to the interefts of a father. It is his fons who have re- 
^' duced him to the laft extremities of poverty and difgrace; too 
'^ happy to have found fome relief in the generous tendernefs of 
** his daughters." " Let Creon come then, purfues he, or let him 
** fend others after me; they (hall not prevail over a mind fo great- 
*^ ly irritated. For this I atteft the oracles of the Gods. Oh 
" Athenians, give me an afylum; and in me you will acquire ade-^ 
" liverer for Athens, and a more formidable enemy for Thebes !'* 

This fpeech, and the oracles, render Oedipus more refpedtable 
in the eyes of the Coloniates : they feel themlelves difpofed toferve 
him, and begin by advifing him to make the neceflary expiations 
to the Eumenides, whofe temple he has fo profaned. Thefe expi^ 
ations confided in pouring libations of water down from three 
fources ; in crowning the facred cups with wreaths of linen, made 
of the fleece of a young (heep newly fhorn ; in pouring libations of 
pure water, and not of wine; with the face turned towards the fun; 
and laftly, three times nine branches of olives (a myft^rious num- 
her) muft be offered, praying at the fame time to the fiumeni- 
des. After which, the perfbn who performs this ceremony muft 
retire backwards out of their temple. Qedipus, whofe blindnefs 
rendered him incapable of performing fucn a facrifice, charges 
his daughters with it. Ifmena undertakes to perform thefe rites, and 
confides to her fifter Antigone the care of her father. 

The Chorus, curious to know the particulars of the misfortunes 
of Oedipus, intreat him, tho' with fome caution, to relate hi§ adr 




ventures. Oedipus feems afraid to open wounds yet Icarcely heal- 
ed 5 he defends his conduit, and confeffes his inceft with groans. 
It was a crime which he committed ignorantly ; or rather, which 
Thebes only committed ; fince it was that city which placed him 
on the throne, and in the bed of his mother. The murder of 
Laius was as involuntary as his inceft. In fine, it is only by bro- 
ken words, and with the moft artlefs confufion, that Oedipus re- 
counts thefe two horrible adventures ; which muft produce an ef- 
which our manners cannot admit, and our language cannot 


Thefeus at length arrives at Colona. He addrefles a fpeech to 
Oedipus of the fame kind with that of Dido to Eneas. As a 
king he compaflionates the misfortunes of a king. He offers him 
all his power for a fupport, and his kingdom for a retreat. ** Con- 
'* ftrained to wander himfelf, expofed to innumerable dangers, he 
** has learnt but too well to feel the miferies of others: to be the 
'* protedor of flrangers, and the unfortunate, is a law he has prcf- 
^* cribed to himfelf, convinced that according to the courfe of 
-** human affairs, he may become wretched in his turn ; and that 
^* nothing is lefs certain, than the events whichjthe next day is to 
." bring upon us." This is the thought of Dido. Virg. Eneid, 
B. 2. V. 630. 

" Non ignari mali miferis fuccurrere difco". T^^^ ^^i^A. 

° 1. 2. V. 630. 

Oedipus, tranfported with joy and gratitude forfo kind a recep- 
tion, anfwers, by acknowledging his generofity ; and the only fa- 
vour he implores \% a tomb, f * It is to be a bulwark to Athens, 
« fays he, that I bring my afhes hither; after my death the true 
*< value of this benefit will be known." 

Thefeus kindly anfwers, " Why art thou folicitous for a tomb, 
** and regardlefs of thy life ? will fo poor a fervice from me con- 
** tent thee ?" Oedipus forewarns Thefeus, that this favour will draw 
upon him fome bloody wars ; and that Thebes will demand him. 
'* If Thebes fhould folicit thy return, fays the king of Athens, it 
'* will not be fit for thee to live in exile." Oedipus replies. That 
this ungrateful country had banifhed him, when he had no thoughts 
of ever quitting it ; and perceiving the Athenian monarch to be a- 
flonifhed at his fortitude and refolution, in circumftances fo di- 



ftrefsful, ** Ah, Thefeus, fays he, thou feeft a king who bends un- 
derneath the weight of many forrows!" 

Theseus. Doft thou mean thy former misfortunes, which—- 

Oedipus. No, they are the common difcourfe of all Greece. 

Theseus- What greater misfortunes have fallen upon thee then ? 

Oedipus. I have been baniflied from my own country, as a pa- 
ricide, by my own children. 

Theseus. But they intend to recal thee 

Oedipus. They are forced to it by an oracle. 

Theseus. Who do they fear? 

Oedipus. Thou. Athens willbe fatal to them. [Tbefeus de^ 
prived Creon of the fcepter ; and there is likewife fome allufion to 
the affairs of the Peleponnefus.] 

Theseus. Ha! what will be the caufeof this revolution? 

Oedipus. My dear Thefeus^ none but the Godfi are exempted 
from the viciflitudes of fortune. All nature is fubjed to decay 
and death. The powerful hand of time overthrows all. The 
earth lofes infcnfibly her fertility. Age deprives bodies of their 
ftrength and vigour. Even fidelity itfelf expires ; and from its afhes 
treachery is born. Friends and allies are not always united by 
the fame ties. That which once pleafed us becomes difguftful, 
and again refumes its former charms. All things are fubjedt to 
change. Thebes and Athens are now allied, and in perfedt peace; 
but a day will come, and fucceeding years fhall bring that fatal 
day, when difcord, breaking the bands of this happy union, fliall 
from one flight circumftance produce a cruel war. Then either 
Jupiter and Apollo are no longer powerful, or my cold afhes fhall be 
watered with Theban blood. But let us not prefume to draw the 
veil : let us reverence the (ecrets of heaven. I return to my firft 
requeft: preferve the faith you have given me inviolate ; and if we 
may depend upon the oracles of the Gods, Athens (hall not repent 
of having granted an afylum to fuch a fuppliant as Oedipus. 

The Chorus declare that Oedipus (poke to them in the fame 
terms when he firft arrived : and The&us anfwers, " Is it poflible 
'< that I can defpife fuch an alliance? This altar, . coniecrated to 
** hofpitality, and fo awful a part of our worihip, would not per- 
** mit it. The venerable Goddeffes have themfclves given an afy- 
** lum to Oedipus: and thefervice he renders to me and my peo- 
^' pie are too important to fuffer me to refuic the hand of fuch a 

** hero* 

O E D I P U S A T C O L O N A. 239 

'* hero. I therefore decree to him an afylum in my kingdom, 
** Chufe, Oedipus, whether thou wilt fix thy refidence here, and I will 
** command the inhabitants to defend thee, or whether thou wilt 
** come with me to my palace *. Thus it is that Thefeus endea- 
** vours to acknowledge, and to merit the benefit thou confereft 
*^ upon him.'* 

Oedipus exprefles his gratitude in the ftrongeft terms ; but pre- 
fers Colona for the place of his refidence, becaufe there it was 
that the oracle had declared he fhould take vengeance on the The- 
bans. He will not even bind Thefeus by the ufual oaths ; and 
Thefeus onhisfide, anfwers like a king, ** That his wordis more fa- 
cred than the moft folemn oaths ; and that Oedipus has nothing 
to apprehend from Creon : that no perfon will dare. to attempt to 
force him away: that he leaves him in the hands of faithful fub- 
jefts : and that the name only of Thefeus will prove a fufficient 
guard for him." 

The Coloniates, who compofe the Chorus, confolc Oedipus for 
his banifliment, by praifes of the new country into which he is 
admitted as a citizen. Here the poet gives us a panegyric upon 
Attica. He extols its fertility, its beauty, and its wealth ; he docs 
not forget Minerva's olive, the pledge of this divinity's protection, 
nor the horfcs for which Attica is indebted to Neptune; as well as 
the fine ftate of their marine, fo greatly fupcrior to that of any 
other nation of Greece. This flattering piiSure for the Athenians 
forms the fecond interlude. 


Antigone perceives a numerous body of men at a diftancc ; and 
foon after diftinguiflies Creon at their head. ** Now is the time, 
" oh Attica ! fays fhe, that we muft put this celebrated valour to 
** the proof." The Coloniates endeavour to remove the fears of 
theprincefs ; and Creon begins his fpeech. He protefts he is not 
come to offer them any violence or injuftice : that he demands Oe- 
dipus in the name of the whole Theban nation 5 and declares, 
that he in particular is grieved to fee a great king forced to wander 
from place to place, accompanied by a young princefs, who, f or- 

• Thus Pelafgus, in the Suppliants of Ef- naides, whether they will refide in his pa- 
chylus, leaves it to the choice of the Da- lace, or in any other place. 




getful of her fcx and rank, expofes herfclf to the neceflity of beg^ 
ing wherewithal to fupport a miferablc life. ** Unhappy that I 
" am! adds he, I have not been able to conceal thisdiigrace to our 
** name. Alas ! it is too public not to be often a fubje<ft of re- 
** proach to us. I conjure thee, therefore, dear Oedipus, in the 
«* name of the Gods, to forget what is paft, return to Thebes, and 
" hide our infamy from the fight of Greece : be contented with 
'* paying thy thanks to this city for the humanity with which it 
" has received thee : follow us, and let thy affeilion for thy na- 
" tive country prevail over thy gratitude to Athens." 

We find by this fpeech, and by feveral other circumftances be- 
fore, that all exiles, even tho' they had formerly been kings, were 
reduced to a fituation almofi: as wretched as that of Belilarius ; at 
leaft, they were in danger of being reduced to it: efpecially Oedi- 
pus, who was loaded with the curfes of Gods and men. We find, 
likewife, that this harangue of Creon's, was a political artifice j and 
therefore Oedipus anfwers him in thefe terms : 

" Rafh and defigning prince, what a fnare haft thou laid for me I 
doft thou pretend to recal me, only to load me with new misfor- 
tunes ? When I demanded baniftiment, I was plunged in thedeepeft 
defpair ; why didft thou then deny me what I foUcited as a favour ? 
why didft thou wait till my griefs were afluaged, and had given place 
to the love of my country ; and then banifli me with ignominy ? 
no confiderations of kindred could foftcn thy cruelty. But now, 
when thou feeft me under the protedion of a powerful ftate, thou 
makeftufc of falfe profefllons ot idndnefs, to deceive me, andfnatch 
me from her hofpitable bofom. All thefe benefits avail me little, 
when I am not difpofed to receive them ! This is like ofiering a 
wealthy man that afliftance thou deniedft him in his poverty. 
What am I to think of fuch fervices? Thou cameft to force me a- 
way, not to replace me on my throne, but to confine me on the 
frontiers of Thebes, Thou art afraid of Athens, and thou dread- 
eft the confequences of my ftay in this country. Away, I will no 
longer liften to thee. My bad Demon will purfue thee ftill ; and 
my ungrateful fons (hall find Thebes the fcene only of their com- 
bat and their death, Thinkeft thou I am not fufficiently informed of 
the deftiny of Thebes? Jupiter and Apollo will prove my words 
to be true. Carry thy flatteries elfe where ; their hidden gall will 
be thy own misfortune : no thou (halt never move my heart 
Away, and leave me to pais the remainder of my days in this hap- 
py land. My deftiny, wretched as it is, muft needs appear fortu- 


\nate to me, fincfe it is capable of exciting envy/' Creon becomes 
^enraged at this i^fufal ; Oedipus reproaches him ; they proceed to 
threats, and from threats to violence. It is Creon who brings mat- 
ters to this extremity ; and, v^^ho at length difcovering his bad de- 
figns, declares that he has already furprifed and carried off Ifmenaj and 
that he will alfo force Antigone from Oedipos. "Remember, 
** fays he to them, and to the Chorus, that if you fall into my 
^ power, you have been the aggreffors/' Oedipus, juftly alarmed at 
his menaces, implores afliftance ; and protefts againft the violence 
that is offered him. The old men reproach Creon for his unjufti- 
fiable conduct ; and threaten him with the refentment of Thefeus. 
He raifes his voice, as knowing his fuperior ftrength, on account 
oF the numbers that attended him. In vain do they reprefent to 
him the unreafonablenefs of *his procedure : he pretends he has a 
right to claim the princeffes of his blood. Antigone cries out for 
aid in vain ; notwithftanding the weak efforts of the Chorus, to 
prevent it, fhe is forced away. This fcene, if we may judge by 
the expreffions, muft have been very much animated. Creon, 
made furious by the obffacles he meets with, although they are 
very inconfideirable, contemns the imall number of Coloniates who 
oppofe him, and direatens to carry off Oedipus himfdf. The 
unhappy prince has no refource but in his own fortitude. He 
loads hisbarbarous brother-in-law with imprecations ; while Anti- 
gone is dragged away, without being permitted to give her father 
a iaft embrace. 

After this aft ef violence, Thefeus unexpeftedly appears. He 
had been offering a facrifice to Neptune, at a fmall diftance. The 
Coloniates haftened to him, and interrupted the folemnity, to in- 
form him of the danger Oedipus was in. As fbon as he heard of 
the hoftility committed by the Thebans, he gave orders to one of 
his officers, to affemble fome horfe and infantry with all fpeed, 
and block up the paffes, that the ravifhers might not efcape. On 
his entrance, he turns towards Creon, and tells him, that if like 
him, he was difpofcd to Men only to the didlates of his rage, he 
would treat him as a foe; but, that he would content himfelf with 
keeping him as a hoftage, till the .princeffes were brought back. 
He adds, with becoming dignity, ** The adlion thou haft com- 
mitted, is injurious to me, and unworthy of thy rank and coun- 
try. What prefumption ! to come into a ftate governed by wife 
laws, and to violate juftice by an impious rape ! didft thou imagine 
Attica was filled with flaves or cowards? or did I appear to thee as 

Vol. II, I i a weak 

242 O E D I P IT S A T C O L O N A. 

a weak and contemptible prince, unable to make myfelf refpeAed, 
It is not from Thebes that thou haft borrowed thefe pernicious 
maxims. The Thebans are lovefs of juftice; and when they fhall 
know that Creon came into Attica to trample upon her laws, to 
profane her facred afylums, and to force from her protection, fup- 
pliants already but toomiferaUe, they will take care to (hew how 
greatly they difapprove of fuch an attempt** 

Creon anfwers with much ieeming ziK)deration, that his idea of 
Attica was very different from that which Thefeus imparted to him r 
but that he did not imagine this ftate would retain peribns of his 
family in fpite of himi • nor give a retreat to one loaded with the 
crimes of parricide and inceft* Oedipus, enraged at thefe imputa- 
tions, juftifies himfelf ia the fame manner as he had done before ;; 
and ihews how little he has merited them. He afterwards con- 
founds Creon, by afking him how he dares to reproach him witb 
the infamy of a wife, who was his fiftcr ? ** Neither I nor fhe 
** knew, fays he, that flie gave fons to her fon. The very re- 
*' membrance fills me with horror; yet thou canft calmly reproach 
** me with a crime, the (hame of which falls upon her aid mee^^*^ 

Thefeus puts an end to this difpute, by commanding Creony 
(for he fpeaks to him as his judge) to come to him and deliver up 
thd two princeffes; and promifes Oedipus that he will reftore his 
daughters to him, and take vengeance for the infult he had 

After his departure, the Chorus, as the people, reprefent the 
reftlefs politics of fubjefts who take advantage of the flighteft in- 
cident, to fpread the report of a war, and make it the topic of 
converfation. He who fpeaks for the others, expe<fls impatiently 
the event of a battle, which he fuppofes muft inevitably happen,, 
between the Theban party and the troops ofThefeus. He draws 
a pleafing pi<fture of it, which flatters and amufes him. He diinks 
he already fees the foldiers engaged in fight, and the viftorious A- 
thenians forcing their prey from the ravi(hers : he wifheshimfelf a 
bird, that he may be an eye witnefs of this adloa; and he invokes 
tl^e Gods to crown it with fuccefs. 


Thefeus returns vidlorious, bringing with him Antigone and li^ 

mena. The mutual joy of the father and daughters for their un- 

expeSedly meeting again, is expreflfed with a beautiful fimplicity. 

Oedipus embraces themj and defires them to give him a ihort ac- 

6 count 

O E D I P U S A T C O L O N A. 243 

count of what had happened to them fince their laft feparation. 
"" For (fays he to them) it is becoming your fortune and your 
** youth, to ufe few words." Brevity and ftrcngth of difcourfc 
are often praifed in this piece, and in the other Greek tra- 
gedies. This is not to be wondered at. The Greeks were 
both by art and Jiature excellent fpeakers j and they all valued 
themfelves upon their fkiil in the ufe of words. 

And here it ia a Angular decorum : for Oedipus apologizes to 
Thefeus for dwelling 10 little upon the great obligations he owes 
him ; and for fuffering his tendemefs for his children to break out 
before his gratitude to him. This very tendemefs* is his excufe. 
He in treats Thefeus to pennit a profane wretch, an unhappy cri- 
minal, to embrace a king fo generous and fo juft. The anfwers of 
Thefeus are full of civility, and that good fenfe and decency of ex- 

Seflion upon which the Greeks fo particularly valued themfelves. 
e informs Oedipus at the fame tin^ of a new incident, which, 
tho' inconliderable in appearance, ought not to be neglcdled. " A 
*' ftranger, he fays, had retired to the altar of Neptune, and required 
«' to fee Oedipus.'* 

Antigone and her lifter immediately guefs this ftranger to be Po- 
lynices, their brother. They acquaint their father with their fuf- 
picions, who at firft refufes to fee him : but the princefles join 
their in treaties with thofe of Thefeus, to prevail upon him to re- 
lent, and fuffer at leaft the fight and difcourfe of a fon who comes 
not like Creon to offer him any infult, but who has affumed the 
manners of a fuppliant. Oedipus yields at length to their impor- 
tunity 5 but detenxiines not to be foftened into a forgivenefs of him. 
Upon which, theChorus make a long moral refledtion upon human 
paffions, and the miferies they introduce into life : from whence 
they recur to the miferies of age, and of the different periods of 
life which bring us to it. It is a little ode, as heathenifti as feveral 
other French odes on the fame fubjedt. They hold it preferable 
cither not to be born at all, or to die in infancy. This little 
interval is finely produced to give time for Polynices to arrive. 

This ungrateml fon, with tears in his eyes, and trembling agita- 
tion, approaches his father, whofe gloomy air and filent ragej fore- 
tel an unfavourable reception. He therefore addreffes himfelf to 
his fifters firft. " What mall I do, my dear fifters, fays he to them ? 
** fliall I begin with deploring my own misfortunes, or thofe which 
^* my father and you have mffered ?" He is moved at the milera- 

I i 2. ble 


244 O E D I P U S A T C O L O N A. 

ble condition in which he finds his father and his king. He feear- 
him in a mourning habit, fuitable to his misfortunes, with the two^ 
princeffes, his daughters, fo altered by the hardftiips they have en- 
dured, that even a brother can fcarcely know them. He laments- 
that he has been too late informed of their fad fituation : he re- 
proaches himfelf forit. He generoufly folicits a pardon from them, 
without being able to pardon himfelf. " Thou art filent, oh my 
father! fays he: fpeak, I conjure thee fpeak;, do not throw a 
tender fon into defpair: fhall I gain nothing by this painful jour^ 
ney, but a cruel filence ? will not my father deign to tell me the 
caufe of his anger? Oh you his daughters fo tenderly beloved, en- 
deavour to foften his heart! prevail with him not to difmifs unan- 
fwered, and with difdain, a ron who- is come under the aufpices of 
Neptune, to foften his indignation." 

The eldeft fitter advifes her brother to begin, by felling the oc- 
cafionof his journey; becaufe in reality every difcourfe, whether 
it produces piety or any other emotion, at leaft enforces an an- 
fwer, were it only by importunity. This is the reafon that £hc 
gives; and Polynices takes her counfel. 

" Well, fays he, I will fpeak ; but firft I implore the God whofc 
altar was my afylum : it was under his auipices, and upon the- 
faith of Thefeus, that I have ventured to come hither. Oh may 
the Gods totich my father's heart, that he may hear me favourably ! 
Know then, oh my father, that I live banifiied from my native 
country ! This punifliment I have drawn upon myfelf, for claim- 
ing the crown, as the eldeft of thy fons. Eteocles has carried ita- 
gainA; me ; not by the right of birth, nor by his fuperior courage,, 
nor by his virtues; it is byhis artifices alone that he has gajned the 
Thebans. Tome therefore it is but too certain that thy imprecations 
have been fatal; and the minifters-of the Gods confirm this truth. 
I tpok refuge in Argos; and, fupported by the alliance of Adraf- 
tus, to whofe daughter I am married, I have engaged all the chiefs - 
of that country in my intereft, v^ho have all fworn either toperiih 
with me before Thebes, or to drive the ufurper thence." Here 
Polynices names the feven chiefs, and' gives* a fliort account of each. 
" It is in the name of thefe heroes, adds he, that! come to implore* 
thy returning tendemefs; and that thou wouldeft referve thy an- 
ger for a brother who has baniflied me from my country. The. 
Oracle has declared, that the party thou favoureft fhall be vifto- 
rious. Oh liften then Oedipus to my prayers ! I conjure thee by 
the rivers of Thebes, and by the Gods of our race, to reftorc me 



thy paternal afFedlion. We are both exiles; both conftrained to 
folicit fuccours from ftrangers : we are alike miferable; while a 
traitor, who has ufurped the crown, enjoys the fruits of his crimes, 
and infults our common misfortunes. Deign only to confcnt to it, 
and I (hall conquer ; but I will conquer only for thee. I (hall re- 
turn into my country: I (hall bahifh the tyrant, and acquire im- 
mortal honour; but if thou abandoneft me, I muft perifh." 

The Chorus, without fuffering themfelves to be prejudiced fn fa- 
vour of Polynices, wait the anfwer of Oedipus, in order to join 
with him. Oedipus takes no notice of Polynices, but addrefles 
himfelf to the Chorus. 

" That traitor, fays he, may thank Thefeus for hearing my 
voice once more : it is to the king's felicitations that I facrifice 
my reluftance;. but the words he will hear from me will not be 
fuch as he has prefumed to hope for. Wretch ! when thou waft 
pofleflcd of the throne, which Eteocles has forced from thee, didft 
not thou thyfelf banifli thy father? Is it not thou who haft redu- 
ced me to this condition, the fight of which now draws thy 
interefted tears ? It is for thy own miferies, not mine, that thou 
weepeft. Away, I do not lament my own misfortunes ; I can fup- 
port them with fortitude : I live, but live to hate a parricide like 
thee. Thou who haft dethroned me, thou who haft plunged me 
into the diftrefles thou weepeft for, thou who haft forced me to 
depend on others for the fupport of an unfortunate life^ my only 
refource has been in the tendernefs and fortitude of my daughters; 
but it was not thy fault that I have not been abandoned by them, 
and left to wander comfbrtlefs and alone. Go, ye barbarous bro- 
thers, ye are no longer my fons; and thou traitor know, that if 
the Gods have fpared thee hitherto, yet thy punifliment is not far 
diftant : thy allies will march to Thebes, but do not hope to pof- 
iels that kingdom. Ungrateful pair, ye (hall both peri(h miie- 
rably; bathed in each others blood. Such are the curfes * with 
which I have loaded you ; and which I now repeat : Yes, ye Fu- 

. * Plato, on two occafions, mentions the book of laws, he fays^ that alnioft all the 
imprecations of Oedipus againil his chil- . curfes of parents upon their children ace 
dren: in the fecond dialogue of Aldbiades, heard, as appears by Oedipus, Amyntor, 
he compares thofe who are ignorant of. and many others; and that their bleflings 
what they are going to im|>Iore of the Gods will be granted with yet more certainty, 
to the imprudent Oedipus. In the eleventh 



rics, I implore your vengeful arm, to ftrike thefe unnatural fons; 
that they may learn what reward is due to thofe who outrage an 
unhappy father, whofc miferies his daughters only have beheld with 
tendernefs and pity. It is thefe daughters whofe piety deferves that 
throne, fo eagerly contefted for. The Goddefs of juftice, who is feated 
at the hand of Jupiter, is furety to thenx for the truth of my predic- 
tion. Go execrable fon, go, loaded with the curfes of a father; and 
bear with thee to the fhades this dreadful fate, which I imprecate upon 
thee. Mayft thou foon behold the horrid iflue of that war, which 
thou art preparing to carry into the bofom of thy country ! mayft 
thou never more return to Argos ! mayft thou and thy impious 
brother, fall mangled by mutual wounds! may gloomy Tar- 
tarus be thy portion ! Thefe are my laft prayers, ye terrible Eu* 
menides ! and thou oh Mars ! who naftpoifoned their hearts with 
this unnatural hate, make hafte and fulfill my curfes! Go wretch, 
fly from my prefence, thou knoweft my laft will; and let the The- 
bans and thy faithful allies know what an inheritance the ii;ijured 
Oedipus has bequeathed his impious fons/* 

PoLYNiCES. Oh fatal journey ! oh my unappy allies ! under 
what aulpices are we going to Thebes ? alas ! I cannot reveal this 
horrid myftery to them ; and yet I am no longer at liberty to delay 
the war. Let me die then, and my fatal fecret die with me. Oh 
my fifters ! ye who have heard the horrid imprecations of my fa- 
ther; if your return to Thebes is as certain as my misfortunes, 
give me, I conjure you in the name of the Gods, give me, at leaft 
the honours of a funeral ; and by this pious duty, you will fliew 
yourfelvcs to be as tender fifters, as you are pious and affedionate 

Antigone. Oh hear me Polvnices ! 

PoLYNicES. What wouldft thou have me do ? 

Antigone. Lead back thy army to Argos ; and do ndt ruin 
thy country and thy felf. 

PoLYNiCEs. It is impoffible. How could I have aflenibled my 
allies, if I had fuffered them to perceive the leaft fign of fear 
in me? 

Antigone. And what advantage doft thou hope to gain, by 
thus following the di<ftates of thy implacable hatred? of what ufe 
will it be to thee to deftroy thy country ? 

Polynices. It would be fhameful for me to recoil now; and 
become the fcorn of a brother whom I ought to command. 



Antigone. Rcfkdt on the fatat oracles thou haft this mo- 
ment heard; by them^ thou and thy brother are doomed t3 

Poly NiCES. I feel the whole fad weight of them : but oh ! 'tis 
hard to yield. 

Antigone. Alas, my brother! and with fuch predictions, who 
will follow thy colours ? 

Pol YN ICES. I know how to be filent, when nccefE ty requires it. 
The art of a general is to make public none but fortunate prefages, and 
to conceal tnofe that are bad. 

Antigone. Thou art determined then to rUfh upon thy 

PoLYNiCES. Thedieis thrown, feeknot toalter my purpofe : fatal 
as this expedition will be, I fly to it with eagernefs. I will either 
brave my father's imprecations, or fulfil my wretched deftiny : but 
if thou payeft a dead brother thofe duties which he cannot expedt- 
from thee during his life, may the Gk)ds be ever propitious to thee. 
Detain me no longer. Adieu my dear fifters, you will never fee 
me more. 

Antigone. Miferable wretch that lam F 

Polynices. Oh ftop thcfc tears Antigone ! 

Antigone. Can- 1 be ib infenfible as not to weep for a brother, 
who throws himfelf deliberately upon certain death ? 

Polynices. Well, if it nduft be fo, I know how to die* 

Antigone. Ah cruel Polynices I no thou fhalt not die : thou 
wilt liften to my advice. 

PoLYNiCEi. Do not advifc thy brother to become a coward. 

Antigone. Ah, we muft be deprived of thee then! 

Polynices. Our good or bad fortune depends not on ourfelves. 
The Gods are mailers of our deftinies. I conjui-e them to render 
yours as happy as ydu both deferve ♦. 

Here he tears himieif from their arms j and it muft be obferved 
thatThefeus,. through decency, is not prefent at this interview be- 
tween the father and the fon ; nor in this laft fcene, during which 
the brother and fifters are at a fmall diftance from Oedipus, who 

* The more this fcene (hall be examined, Tiews ; to become more (Iriking at the fe- 

the more beautiful and ptirely natuitd it cond» and always to appear more beautiful 

wDl be found : it is the fate of excellent erery time they are examined* 
things, to create no* fiirprixe at the firft 



is fuppofed not to hear this difcourfe. Polynices departs: the Co- 
loniates hear the thunder roll; they are apprehenfive that it prefa- 
ges fome misfortune, which Oedipus has drawn upon them : but 
this prince, like a man inlpired, confiders the thunder as an augury 
of his approaching death : fo that he defires his daughter and the 
Chorus to give immediate notice to Thcfcus. The thunder con- 
tinues J and its redoubled peals, fo full of unufual horror,' ftrike the 
dd men with religious awe*. 

A C T V. 

Thefeus, who had been fent for, arrives : he afks whether Oedi- 
pus, or the fudden ftorm has been the occafipn of that confternation, 
m which he beholds the whole aflembly. Oedipus, with a prophe- 
tic air, informs them, that the Gods call him by the voice of the 
thunders and the winds: that, to fulfil the promife he made to 
Thefeus and the city of Athens, of being always their defender, 
he goes, he fays, without a guide, blind as he is, to the place where 
he is to refign his breath. Thefeus alone is to be entrufted with 
the fecret of his tomb, which he is never to reveal till he is near 
his end 5 and then only to his fucceffor, to b^ tranfmitted with 
the like precautions, to all the future kings of Athens. It is up- 
on this condition, that the tomb of Oedipus will become the moft 
folid bulwark of the Athenian ftate. ** But I perceive, continues 
** this prince, that fate and the Gods haften my departure to the 
** appointed place. Let us go then without fear : follow me my 
'* daughters, for I will ferve you for a guide, as you have been mine 
" till this moment. Leave me; fupport me not, I need no af- 
** fiftance to lead me to the place where the earth is to open her 
«* bofom for me. This is the path — Follow me. Mercury and 
** the Goddefs of Hell are my conductors. Ofun! which has 
" been fo longinvifible to me, I quit thee for the regions of eternal 
** night. Mayft thou my dear Thefeus and the generous Atheni- 
•* ans be ever happy ; and in your prolperity, fometimes remember 
*' Oedipus." 

* Sophocles (fays Longbus on the^Sub- gives us a fight of the apparition of Acbil< 

lime, tranflated by W. Smith A. M.) has fuc- les upon his Tomb (this tragedy is lod) at 

ceeded nobly in his images when he def- the departure of the Greeks from Troy. 

cribes his Oedipus in all the agonies of ap- But I know not whether any one has deibri* 

preaching death ; and burying himfelf in bed that apparition more divinely than Si^ 

(^e midfl of a prodigious temped, when he monides. 


pBt>IPUB AT CO LOW A. *49 

He^^ftrt^; An4 the Choi:us» in two ihcxrt Stanzas^ mfifc vow^ 
to l^nvwtto procure Ais woDderful ftrang^r a {bort and eafy p^f- 
(age to themaai&on8 of the dead. We fh^l fee prefently, that thiS 
evf ats are too nurqerous to h^ve happened with pfobabiUiy, ip fo 
ihort a tiin^i ^^nd this preqpitation of the aftion can be juftified 
only, by fuppofing that the ode was prolonged by the inchantnaent 
of the ^(Ciftator, who, already aftoniihed at a prpdigy fo unthought 
ofj ^pe^s the iifue of it with impatience. 

This iflue is the iingular death of Oedipus; the perfbn who comes 
to relate it fays, that Oedipus had arrived without any guide to a 
precipice in a road divided into feveral paths, where Thefeus and 
ririthous had fworn an eternal fidelety : that having feated him- 
felf upon a ftone, he laid afide his mourning veftments, and com-^ 
manded his daughters to bring him fome water from a neighbour- 
ing fountain: that after he was purified, he cloathed himfelf with 
a robe, fuch as is put upon the dead, when immediately the earth 
began to tremble. The princefTes drowned in tears, beat their 
breafts, and hung on his knees ; he embraced them, and faid, " My 
** daughters you have no longer a father; my laft moment is come. 
*' Happy in (paring you for the future thofe toils which I muft 
** have coft you, but which your tendernels for me would have 
«* foftened, I have carried the gratitude of a father as far as it 
«* could go, but now I quit you for ever," 

He adds, that at thefe words all who were prefent burft into 
tears and cries, which were followed by a profound filence 5 when 
a voice from heaven was heard to fay, " Oedipus why do you de- 
lay?" Immediately that prince called Thefeus, and recommended 
the two princeffes to himj^ after having firft embraced them ; he 
then commanded them to remove to fome diftance, that they might 
not behold a death which by the exprefs order of the Gods, The- 
feus alone was to be a witnefs of. The whole aflembly retired 
likewife; and a few moments afterwards, looking up, they no 
longer faw Oedipus, but Thefeus alone, who had covered his face 
as if his fight had been dazzled with a celeftial object. . No perfon 
knew what kind of death Oedipus had fufFered ; but fuppofed 
>the earth had opened itfelf gently to receive him, without vi- 
olence and pain. 

Antigone and Ifmena return^ inconfolable for the lofs of a fa« 
ther wnom they fo tenderly loved. They would fain go back in 
fearch of his body or his tomb; but this duty they are not per- 

VoL.IL K k mit- 


mitted to perform- The Chorus undertake to comfort tfaem t 
but they are alFe&ed with nothing but the remembrance of Oedi- 
pus. Thefeus comes^ and by his prefence and friendly offers^ in 
Ibme degree fbftens their grief. Being under a neceflity to re-* 
fufe leading them to the tomb of their father, they conjure him at 
Icaft to conduct them fafe to Thebes, that they may prevent a 
cruel war between their brothers ; and if poflible> hinder them 
from being the murderers of each other. Thefeus, from his re- 
gard to Oedipus, promifes them all they defire ; and the play 


T H E 



NOTHING is more celebrated in ancient fable, than Hercules 
and his twelve labours- This hero was the fon of Jupiter 
and Alcmena, whom the God feduced under the form of Am- 
phitrion, a Theban prince, the hufband of Alcmena. Juno was 
ib enraged at the infidelity of her huiba^d, that £be took a cruel 
revenge upon Hercules. She made him fubjed to Euriftheus, king 
of Mycene, who by laying upon him commands other but 
Hercules could have executed, gave occafion for thofe great ex- 
ploits fo much boafted of in antiquity. It is not our bufinefs 
here to feparate the hiftory from the fable, nor to diiHnguifh the fe- 
veral Herculcs's, whofe heroic adtions have been all attributed to 
the Hercules of Greece. It is fufficient for the tragedy now before 
us, if we follow the ideas received by the Greeks. 

The expoiition of this piece, the fubjeft of which is the death 
of Hercules, will explain by degrees the principal adtions of this 
hero, and fuch only as are neceffary for the better underftanding 
the action of the drama. The reft would be a train oferudition as ufele& 
as eafy to compile. It would take off the attention from the fub- 
ftance of this tragedy, on which it had better be eo^loyed. 

The fcene is laid in Trachine *, a city of Thellaly ; and the Cho- 
rus being an affembly of the virgins of that country, the play takes 
its name from them. The other perfons of the Drama, are Deja- 
nira, the wife of Hercules, and daughter of :^nea8, king of Etolia; 
Hyllus, her foh ; an old man ; a meflenger ; Lychas, an officer 

belonging to Hercules; and Hercules himfelf. 

- - - - * • ■ • - — — 

*Trachine»orTracbiii, ackyc^-Pythof, was afterwards called Heraclea, t>ecaule 
ia Tbcflaly, at the foot of mount Oeta. It Hercules burnt himfelf upon mount Oeta. 

Kka "^ ACT 



A C T I. 

Dejanira opens the (bene alone; fhe recals to remembrance- 
all the misfortunes of her life, Ae iburce of which is her anxious 
tcndernefs for her hulband. Dejanira is here a jealous wife> 
fuch as Ovid* paints her in his heroic epiftles, where the whole 
fubjedl of this play of Soj^ocles is elegantly expreffed in a letter 
only from this princcfs to her hufband : ihc who was the daughter 
of a powerful monarch, (he fays, had a river for a lover, a deity^ 
' indeed, but terrible on account of the various forms he aiTumed. 
Sometimes he appeared as an ox, fomettmes a (erpent, and fome- 
times a man, butfucha man as the painters reprefent the River Gods ^ 
that is, with horns and a large beard, on which' the water poured 
from his mouth. A lover of the fame kind as the river Acbdous^. 
extremely difagreeable to Dganira, who preferred death to fuch a 
bufband. Fortunately for her, a poweifid rival came to deliver her 
from the perfecutiotis of the River Cod. Hercules was this new 
lover, who vanquiihed the river, and dqirived him of one of his 
horns, as we read in the Metamorphoses -f- 

We muft be contented to fwallow the(c fables, if wenvould un^ 
defftand the writers <^ antiquity. The tmth which is coocealed 
under them jiiftifies the ancients; but this truih is of little confe* 
auence in the tragedy of Sophocles, fince th^ fafaie is the foul and 
the ornament of it. Dcjanir% then becomes die wife of her deli- 
verer; but £he complains that (he is not more happy: odier cztcs^ 
other difquicts fill her bo(bm, and love ftiil thecaufe; forHercu^ 
les is a hero who is perpetually travelling through cities and na^ 
tions, who flies from one vi&ory to another, and whofe comtfry i& 
the whole earth- Dejanira and her children fee him fddomer 
than any one elfe. ne expo(es himfelf to innumerable dangers^ 
and leaves them in perpetual akrms. Ovid had this paifag^ of 
Sophoclc wn his view, in the following verfes 

:|: ^' Non honor eft, fed onus ; fpecies Isfura ferenteni,. 

'' Si qua vclts apte nubere, nube pari. 
** Vir mihi femper abed, & conji^ge notiorhofpes; 

^' Monftraque, tcrribflcs perfequiturque feras. 
^' Ipfa domo vacu& votis operata pudicis 

^* Torqu eo r, infefl;o ne vir ab node cadat. 

^ Ovid's Heroic, epiftle 9. f Ovkl*s Met. lib. 9. ( Ovid's Heroic, epMe 9; ' 


T H E T H R A C H I N^ T K N NT E S. 253 

** Inter ferpcntes, aprofque, avWofque Icones 
** Jadlor, .& cfuro6 tcrna per gra canes. 

♦** But as extreams do very ill agree. 
The greatnefs of my huiband leflens me ; 
This Teeming hooour gives a mortal wounds , 
Amongft our equals happincfs is found. 
At home in quiet they their Kves enjoy; 
Tumiilt6 and wars, do all his hours employ : 
This abfence makes me fo unfortunate, 
I buy your glory at too dear a rate. 
I weary heaven with vows and facrifice 
Left you ihould fall by bcaft or enemies. 
When you aiiault a lion or wild boar. 
You hazard much, but I ftill hazard more.'"' 

At length Deiaoira lets the audience know, that fhe and her 
fon live at Tracjkine in banifliroent. 

The occafion of diis exile was the death df a child, a relation of 
Oeneus. The great Alcides having. invited his fatber-in-Iaw to x 
feafl, happened to kill the child as he was playing with him. This 
accident was not imputed to him as a crime: but Hercules thought 
himfelf obliged rigoroufly to obferve the law of the Greeks j and 
therefore voluntarily bani(hed himfelf and his family for a year* 
He chofe Trachine for the place of his exile; aadthither he con- 
duced Dejanira and her children, whom he confided to the care- 
of Ceyx king of Trachine. This banifliment .fills her with grief, 
and is the more infupportable as flxe has not for a Wrhole year heard 
any tidings of Hercules. 'A writing he left with her' at* parting 
augments her fears and her difquiets. 

One of her women now enters j; and, to calm her anxiety, ven- 
tures to advife her to fend Hyllus, the eldeft fon ojf Hercules, to 
feekhis father, or at leaft to enquire what is become of hrm. Hyllus 
arrives very feafonably; and his mother having imparted to.him the 
advice that had been given her, the young prince tells' her, that it 
is reported Alcides his father had been a long timfe the Have of 
Omphale, queen <^ Lydia; that he had^at length freed hitnfelf 
from this Oiameful bondage, and had formed the defign of carry- 
ing the war into Eubea agaicA Eurytus. " But doft thou know, 
my fon, iay$ Dejanim, what ot^aoks thy farther whe^ h^ depart- 
ed left with me copcemiog this expedition? This je their import. 
He ihall perifh in this war 5 or, at length reftored to himfelf, he 

• Ovid's Epiftles, publifhed by Mr. Drydcn. . 



{hall for the future enjoy a happier deftiny. Thou fceft in what a 
lituation this hero is upon whom our fate depends : for if we lofe 
him, we arc undone ; and while he lives we are but too happy. 
Canft thou belongirrefolutethen, whether thou (hould'f): togo to his 
afliftance ?" " I willhaften to him inftantly, anfwers Hyllus ; and had 
I known this oracle relating to my father^ I had long e'er this been 
with him. But although that conilant fuccefs which has attend- 
ed his arms ought to remove our fears, yet will I depart, and in- 
form myfelf of every thing that concerns' a perfon fo dear to us.** 
*' Depart my fon, fays the mother; blu/h not for an undertaking 
which tho* long delayed, is neceflary." 

A troop of young virgins of Trachine appears at that inftant in 
the veftibule of Ceyx's palace, where the Iccne is laid. They feck 
Dejanira ; and, anxious for the fafety of Hercules, they implore the 
Sun to make known to this afflidted wife the fateofher hufband. Thefe 
virgins, as has been before obferved, form the Chorus, who from 
this time are prefcnt during the whole action. ^ She who fpeaks 
for the reft, grieved to fee Dejanira. a prey to the moft racking 
fears, and fo long deprived of the foft comforts offleep, endeavours 
to confole her. Thefe confolations are only the common-places 
fcattered through the ancients, upon the inftability of fortune, the 
mixture of good and evil in human affairs, and the ibothing charms 
of hope ; but all this is turned in a manner wonderfully beautiful. 

Dejanira, affedted with the tendernefs of thefe young virgins, 
replies, that they are yet ignorant of the inevitable cares which 
marriage brines along with it: cares which their youth has ex* 
empted them from hitherto ; but that they will one day know by 
experience, the grief and anxiety which a tender wife fufFers in 
the abfence of a beloved fpoufe : the difquiets (he feels on her chil- 
dren's account, and a thoufand other diftreflcs. This fentiment 
Racine, full of his admired Sophocles, has put into the mouth of 
Andromache, in his Ipeech to Hermione. AdJ; the third, fccne 
the fourth. . ^ 

** — 111 mereftc un fils, vous f^aurez quelqud jour, 
" Madame^ pour un fils jufqu'ou va notasc amour : 
'«• Mais vous ne f9aurez pas, au moins je Ic fouhaite, 
«* En quel trouble mortel fon int^r^t nous jctle. 
" Lorfque de tant de biens qui pouvoient nous Hatter 
" C'cft Icieul qui nous rcfte, & qu'on veut nous rdter^*' 




Dejanira determines to acquaint her confidant with a circum* 
fiance which particularly torments her. This is a writing which 
Hercules left with her at his departure* It is indeed his hA tefla- 
ment inform. " Till this laft fad parting, fays (he, he always 
Ifeft noe like a hero who goes to an affured viftory; but here he 
fpeaks like a dying hu&and. He regulates my inheritance : he 
bequeaths his dominions to his fons ; and fixes a certain period, 
beyond which we are not to hope for his return/* This period 
was fifteen months, and this is the laft day. Befides ihe re- 
peats to the Chorus the oracle which (he had beforementioncd 
to her fon, and which was given Hercules by the doves, in the 
foreft of Dodona. *' It is thefe melancholy prefages, fays (he, 
which will not permit me to clofe my eyes : in fleep. I am incei?- 
fantly tormented with the fear of being fo wretched as to furvive 
my hero/* Thefe certainly are fentiments uncommonly noble and 

The fubjea being thus infenfibly explained by thefe agitations 
of her mind, the Chorus perceive a man coming forwards, 
crowned with leaves; a fortunate prefage. Accordingly he is acitir 
zen, who having met Lychas, an officer belonging to Hercules, 
coming to acquaint Dejanira that her hufband was returning tri- 
umphant, and loaded with the (poils of his enemies^ haftened be- 
fore him to bring the welcome news to the queen hirnfelf; /* Thou 
wilt foon fee him, fays he, crowned with laurels, at the head of 
his viftorious army.** Dejanira a(ks why. Lychas did not come 
himfelf, to inform her of her hu(band*s happy return. The man 
tells her, that the people, impatient to know the circumftances of 
fuch wonderful fuccels, detained him unwillingly, till he' had fatifT 
fied their curiofity. Dejanira refigns herfelf up to a joy fo. much 
the greater and more difficult to be expreflfed as her grief had 
been violent. She invites the Chorus to take part in her gladnefs ; I 

and this aflfords matter for a (hort interlude, . which is nothing 
more than a triumphal fong, in honour of Diana, .ApoUq,; and i 


ACT 11/ 

Lychas arrives, and gives the. queen a circumftantial account of 
what die other had related in two words. Hercules had facked 
the city of Oechalia*, killed Eurytus, and brought away a great 

* Oechalia, an ancient city of Theflaly, of which Eurytus was king. 



fiumberof pHfoners of both fekMj whom, he j^ before him to 
his queen : accordingly they are feca ^.(h$ hottiom of theibg^, 
with a young princefs at thar head. . ' ' 

Hercules, fays Lychas, entered into this war to take vengeance 
on Eurytus, king of Oechalia, who had fo far violated the laws of 
hofpitality, as to ufe the n)ofl injui:tou$ language to him at a 
feaft, and to banifli him ihamefully from his pakcet which was 
the caufe of this hero's refcntment. Meeting a certain per* 
fon named Iphitus, upon the tc^ of a rock> he in his rage 
threw him down, without giving him time to defend him- 
felf. It is aftonifhing that Sophocles fhould impute fuch bafenefs 
to his hero» even in a feigned recital. Lychas a(ids, that this was 
the only error Hercules fuffered himfelf to conimit; and that Ju- 
piter, who would have pardoned him, if he had attacked his enemy 
by open force, had puniftied him for yielding to this impulfe of 
rage, by fubje6ting nim to Omphale, queen of Lydia, during a 
whole year. That at length Alcides having reached the promon- 
tory of Cenaeum, was employed in offering facrificep there to Jupiter, 
in acknowledgment for his vi6h>ry ; and that as fbon as he had 
oerformed this duty to the Gods, he would return to his wife, whom 
ne intreated to receive bcfordiand the fruits of his conquefts. Such 
is the recital of Lychas, in which there is very little troth, as we 
ihall fee hereafter- 

Dejanira, notwithftanding the joy which fuch unexpeded good 
fortune gives her, yet feels a fccret fear, which ftie is not able to 
account for, and which fills her with unoafineis at the fight of die 
captives, whom defUny has thrown into her power, far from their 
country, laid wafte by the rage of war. ^* Oh Jupiter! cries (he: 
'* avert this melancholy omen, and grant that my children may 
" never experience the calamity of thefe unhappy captives." One 
among them feems particularly to merit her compaflion: hqr 
youth, her beauty, and her modefl: ibrrow, touch the heart of the 
queen: fhe interefk herfelf in the fate of this lovely captive, and 
repeatedly inquires her name and family ; but the fair prifbner keeps 
an obflinate filence. CafTandra behaves in the fame manner t© 
'Clytemneflra, in the Agamemnon of Efchylus. If we would un*- 
dcrfland the ancients perfe<aiy, we mufl compare them wkh ^ch 
other. This will give us a key ta their manners, and the fpirit of 
the age in which they lived. Lychas being defired by Dganira to 
teUher who this young captive », pretends notto^Jkn^Wi fo^that 

5 15c-. 

THE T R A C H I N I E N N E S. ix,j 

Dejanira (Jiredls feme of her attendants to condu<3: her and h^ 
train into the palace, there to take fome repofe- 

The queen, after difmiffing Lychas, prepares to retire alfo, when 
a man enters and intreats her to ftop a moment, and liften to a fe- 
cret he has to unfold, which is of the utmoft confcquence to her. 
Upon this, every one withdraws, except the Cliorus, whom this 
perfon allows to ftay and partake the fecret. " Know, princefs, 
fays he to Dejanira, that Lychas either deceives you, or had de- 
ceived us before. I heard him firy, in the prefence of a great 
number of witneffes, that Hercules entered into this expedition 
againft Eiirytus, on account only of this young beauty. Yes; it 
was love, and not his pretended flavery to Omphale, and the 
feigned death. of Iphitusi that forced him upon tJiis war; love, 
oh Dejanira ! produced his valour and thefe triumphs. Hercu- 
les, del^airing to obtain this princefs, and her father Eurytus, 
made ufe of a flight pretence to invade his doininions. He re- 
venged himfelf oa the kiog, iox refufing him his daughter, by 
his death, and by the deftrudion of his kingdom. Thou feeft he 
fent his ^rifoner before him; this was riot done undefigriedly; 
do not imagine that he will treat her like a captive : love, which 
tyrannizes ever his heart, will never fuiFer him to do that. This 
is what r learnt from Lychas, as well as many other citizens i 
it is indeed melancholy news for thee, but too probable ; and I 
thought myfelf obliged to let thee know it/' 
Thequeen, ftruck as with a thunderbolt, cries out, ** Ob wretched 
that I am! what (hall I do? what a ferpent have I received in 
my bofom !" Enraged at the perfidy of Lychas, (he afks the ad- 
vice c^i the Chorus upon this occafion. The Chorus are of opi- 
nion that fhe ought to prefs Lychas to declare the truth. As 
{he is going after hihi, he comes of himfelf to meet her ; and, be- 
ing immediately to return to Hercules, ^* Princefs, fays he, what 
^' am I to fay to thy hulbarid in thy name ?" 

The queen takes advantage of this opportunity to found this 
courier with all thefubfeilty of a woman, and all the dignity of a 
great prinoefs : flie manages her enquiries very artfully \ and at firft 
feems only to vvifli he would repeat all he has already told her con- 
cerning her illuftrious hulhand. The fubjeft wa* intcfcfttng 
enough to make it appear natural that fhe (hould defire this j but 
all on a fudden fhe turns the difcourfe upon the fair captive, and 
again afks who Ihe is ? Lychas anfwers, as before, that ne is igno- 
VoL. 11. LI rant 


rant of her name and quality. Dejanira begins to intimidate him. 
*^ To whom, fays (he, doft thou think thou art fpeaking ?" 

Lychas. Alas! what means thi^ queftion, princefs ? 

Dejanira. Anfwer me. 

Lychas. It is to Dejanira, to my fovereign, that I fpeak. 

Dejanira. 'Tiswell, thou acknowledgeft then that I am thy 

Lychas. Moft certainly. 

Dejanira. What puniihment thinkefl thou ought to be in- 
flicted on a treacherous flave ? 

Lychas. Treacherous ! what fnare art thou laying for me, 
princefs ? 

Dejanira. Wretch! it is thou who haft dared to lay fnares 
for me. 

. Lychas. Permit me, oh queen! to retire, while I am yet able to 
comprehend a little of thy difcourfe ? 
. De J an i r a. No, I will det^n thee, till thou haft anfwered me. 

Lychas. As to what? 

Dejanira. This captive whom thou haft brought with thee^ 
doft thou know her or not? 

Lychas. I have already faid all I know of her. 
. Dejanira names lole to him, and infinuates that (he has had in* 
formation concerning her from other perfons. Lychas denies all ; 
and evades her queftions in the manner we have feen. The queea 
repeats to him what he had faid himfelf to the citizens, and pref- 
fes him to declare the truth, but in vain : the officer perjfifts in his 
iirft affertion; and demands permiffibn to return to his king ; but 
Dejanira hasrecourfe to an artifice* which could hardly fail of fuc- 
ceeding. She pretends that (he is wholly indifferent about her 
hufband's little infidelities : ftie values herfelf upon her knowledge 
of the difpofition of men, and upon having got above the little 
weaknefles and jealoufy of her fex. " She declares that flie has 
" fuppreffed a ufelefs delicacy, and knows what indulgence is due 
" from a wife to a huft)and. Hercules, flie fays, has long ac- 
" cuftomed her to be eafy on this article ; and befides, the com- 
** paffion fhe feels for lole is a proof that (he is not capable of fuf- 

* Racine has given his Roxana all the ftifiable in his management of this cha- 

jealoufy and all the art of Dejanira ; but rafter^ any more than the French; al- 

he has made her mu"(;h more criminal : yet though Dtjanira h far lefs to be condejnnr 

1 do not think the Greek poet wholly ju« ed than Roxana, 

•* fer- 

r t 


** fering much inquietude on account of a rival/' By this pernicious 
cunning, and affedted difintereftcdnefs, Dejanira frees Lychas from 
his apprchenfions ; and afterwards, by Ihewing him how greatly 
falfhood is difliked, particularly by perfons in power, who arc in a 
condition to deteft and punifla it, flie determines him to confefs 
all. This he docs ; and tells her,that it was not in confequence of 
a command from Hercules, that he concealed his paffion for lole, 
fince Hercules himielf made no fecrct of it ; but through his con- 
cern for the queen, whom he was unwilling to afflid:, " For, con- 
" tinues he, this hero, to whofe courage and valour, nothing was 
*^ infurmountable, is vanquifhcd by love/* This paflage is thus 
rendered by Ovid : 

'* * Querii nunquam Juno feriefque immenfa laborum 
«* Fregerit, huic lolen impofluifle jugum/' 

The queen has now heard enough ; but ftill diffembling her 
jealous rag^, (he promifes to. treat her prifoners kindly, and or- 
ders Lychas to enter the palace, and wait till (he gives him the 
Erefentihe defigns for her hu(band, in return for that he has fent 
er : this faid, fhe retires likewife. 

The virgins who compofe the Chorus conclude the aft, by re- 
flexions on the power of love: from enumerating the Deities who 
have been cnflaved by this paflion, they pafs to mortals, and def- 
cribe the combat between Hercules and the river Achelous, for 
Dejanira. This defcription is beautiful, and naturally connefted 
With the fubjedt. 


While Lychas, who is now ready to depart, converfes with the 
Chorus, Dejanira comes out of the palace, to impart tothefe faith- 
ful friends the torments that fill her bofom. Lychas goes out. 
*' Ah ! cries Dejanira, like a deceived pilot, who receives into his 
^' veflel a burthen likely to fink it, I have opened my arms to a 
•' rival. Alas! a thoufand charms fmile in ner eyes, and banifh 
" mine/* This thought it is that racks her; yet £he loves Hercules, 
unfaithful and inconftant as he is : and to fix his heart, fhe has 
recourfe to an expedient which fhe believes infallible. To under- 
fland this, it is necefTary to recolledl the adventure of the Centaur 
NefTus. Hercules, when he conduced Dejanira to Trachine, was 

' " ' ■ ' ' ' ' " I ■■! I !■■■ I . ■ . I , p ■ I^MI ■ I 

' Ovid's Epiftlcs, 9. 

L 1 2 ob- 


obliged to pafs a river, and confided her to the care of Ncffus, who 
employed himfelf in ferrying over travellers ; but the Centaur of- 
fering violence to this princefs, the fon of Alcmena flew him with 
his arrows which had been dipped in the poifonous blood of the 
Hydra of Lerna, which hehad formerly killed. The dying Centaur 
told Dejanira, that if (he would for the future be wholly free from 
all apprehenfions of a rival in the afFedtions of Hercules, flie muft 
preferve Ibme of his blood, which would prove a philtre always 
capable of recalling him to her. The inquifitive and Jealous 
Dejanira carried away with her fome of this blood, with an inten- 
tion to make ufe of it when neceflary, as Sophocles and Ovid re- 
late. She therefore now tells the Chorus, that having fortunately 
remembered this philtre, (he had dipped a robe in it, which (he in- 
tended to fend to Hercules. However a fcruple rifes in her mind 
upon what might be the efFedt of this dangerous trial, which fhe 
had never yet made. The Chorus wifely endeavour to heigh ten 
thefe fears, which fpring from a fecret prefage ; but paflion pre- 
vents Dejanira from farther refleftion, efpecially upon feeing Cy- 
chas, who comes to receive her laft orders. She then ftifles lier 
fears, makes the firft advance, and requires lecrecy of the Chorus^ 
with regard to this new fpecies of magic. 

This Icruple fupprefled in its birth, is finely managed by Sopho- 
cles, as we fhall foon fee. The queen gives Lychas the robe dc- 
figned for Hercules, with orders to prevail upon him to wear it as 
foon as pofEble, that be may appear with the more decency at the 
facrifices. Lychas takes the box, which is fealed with the queen's 
feal, promifes to acquit .himfelf faithfully of his duty, and goes a- 
way. Ovid has thus elegantly cxpreffed the innocence of Dejani- 
ra and Lychas. 

** Ignaroque Lichee quid tradat neicia ludlus 
" Ipfa fuos. tradit." 

Mean time the Chorus offer up a prayer for Hercules, and con- 
ceive favourable hopes from his return. 


Dejanira, as has been obferved, is in that ftate when the ma- 
lignity of the human heart ftruggling with its natural redkitude, is 
divided between the defire of gratifying itfelf, and the fear of com- 
mitting a crime: a ftate in which it is ufual for paffion to pre- 
vail ov^f duty. For, in this doubt, when the heart enters into a 


THE TR A C H f N I E N N E S. 261 

treaty, it is more than half overcome ; and we find that Dejanira 
follows her inclination, without giving herfelf time to examine whe- 
ther fhe does well or ill* Even the very manner of her conlulting 
the Chorus concerning her doubts, is but an artifice of her pallion, 
which feeks for fuppoft rather than advice ; and remorfe is the 
confequence of it. Her reafon returning after the departure of 
Lychas, {he imparts to her confidants her fears, and feeks if poflible 
to be delivered from them ; for Sophocles has painted her virtu- 
ous, though jealous. And indeed, hers is not the jealoufy of a Me- - 
dea, who would murder her rival and her hufband : all (he defircs 
is to recover his heart, and render him indifferent towards lole. 

She reflects upon the magical operation fhe has performed, and 
the wonders that attended it. Nefliis had defired her to keep his 
blood in a dark place, and when fhe madeufe bf it, to doit fecret- 
ly, and in the dark ; but he particularly charged her not to expofc 
to the light, before it was worn, the robe dipped in this blood. 
She had followed thefe diredlions exaftly ; but the lock of wool 
which fhe ufediriflead of a fpunge to fpread the philtre upon the robe 
rotted as foon as it was expofed to the air. This furprifing cir- 
cumflance terrifies Dejanira; and fhe begins but too late to fuf- 
pe<3: the Centaur's prefent. " For what reafon could induce 
** a lover, murdered on her account, to be defirous of ferving 
*' her ? doubtlefs it Was to revenge himfelf upon his enemy, that 
^* he deceived her with an invidious prefent." The queen now 
remembers, that the arrows with whicn the Centaur was wounded, 
had been poifbned with the blood of the Hydra. She therefore 
doubts no more but that Hercules is the viftim of this pretended 
fyhiltre; and fhe determines, if this fatal accident fhould happen, 
to put an end to her life, and conceal her fhame in the tomb. 

This repentance in a heart virtuous, but drawn afide, is accord- 
ing to nature ; and I do not think it poflible to be more happily ^ 
exprefTed, than Sophocles has done it. The Chorus endeavour 
in vain to remove thefe apprehenfions, and to prevail upon the 
queen to hope better from a flratagem which fhe was perfuaded 
was wholly innocent. Dejanira feels her fears and her difquiets in- 
creafe, and her fon Hyllus, who returns unexpectedly, confirms 
them, by the words he utters upon his entrance, " Ah mother I 
^' fays he : mayfl thou either be no longer my mother, or ceafe to 
'* live: or rather be, if poflible, lefs guilty. Thou hafl this day 
" murdered my father, and thy hulband." 


262 THE T R A C H I N I E N N E S. 

Dcjanira, ftruck with terror and amazement, a/ks him feveral 
queftions j and each anfwer fhe receives is a new ftab to her heart. 
Hyllus is come from his father, and was a witnefs of the mifer- 
able condition to which the fatal robe had reduced him. This 
hero was ar Cenee, where he was building a temple in honour of 
Jupiter, and tracing out the plait of a lacred wood : there it was 
that his fon Hyllus found him, and whither Lychas came with the 
prefent from Dejanira. Here there is a fault which it is not eafy 
to defend : Plautus in his Captives is guilty of the fame. The di- 
ftance from Cenee to Trachine is too great to make it credible 
that any one could travel thither and back again in fo fhort a time 
as Sophocles allows for the journey of HylluS and Lychas. How 
could Hyllus, in the fpace of a few hours, go to Cenee to his father^ 
fee him bufied in his defigns of ereding a temple, aflift at afacrificc 
at which Lychas alfo who had come back from Trachine, was pre- 
fent ; in a word, be witnefs to all that had pafTed, and attend hi$ 
father to Trachine during the time taken up in two adts ? But 
Sophocles, who was originally fo fcrupulous, with refpedt to proba- 
bility, undoubtedly took advantage of the diftance of thofe places 
from Athens, where the majority of the fpedtators did not very 
clofcly examine the matter, and willingly admitted the appearance 
of probability, where geography appeared to be but little violated. 
The fame thing is done now by our audiences, though moi« 
knowing with refpedl to tragedies, where the nicities of place arc 
ftill lefs obfcrved. 

But to return to the recital made by Hyllus. *^ Alcides, through 
" refpeft to the requeft of his wife, put on the robe (he had fent 
*' him. Thus adorned, he appeared at a pompous facrifice; but 
** fcarce had the pile whereon the vidtims were placed begun to 
** blaze, when the venom vvith which the robe was poifoned pro- 
•* duced its fatal efFeft. The whole body of Hercules was cover- 
*' ed with a profufe fweat : the dreadful robe ftuck faft to his 
" back, and could not be torn off without. bringing the flefli with 
'* it. The poifon glided into his veins, and infinuated itfclf into 
'* the marrow of his bones. Hercules called Lychas, and alked from 
" what hand he received this horrible prefent? and upon his an- 
'* fwering, from Dejanira*s : the hero, tranfported with rage, and 
*' with the excefs of his tortures, feized the wretched Lychas, and 
^* threw him with fuch force upon a rock, that his body was daih^ 
" ed in pieces." (It was to render this credible, that Sophocles 
mentioned the circumftance of the death of Iphitus.) " The 



*« 'people were ftruck with terror, and not one durft venture to 
** approach the raging Hercules. He threw himfelf on the earth, 
** he rolled about; then fuddenly raifing himfelf, he uttered dread- 
** ful cries, which made all the neighbouring fhores refound. At 
'* length, adds Hyllus, Hercules ciaftiilg around his looks, which 
'* were renderered frightful by the violence of his pain, perceived 
** me in the croud, drowned in tears. He called me: approach,- my 
" fon, faid he, do not fly a wretched father; come near, although thou 
" fhouldft expire with me, come near, my fon, and if thou haft 
" any remaining tenderneis for a father who has ever loved thee, 
^' convey me as^ foon as poflible, out of this foreign country, that I 
** may breathe my laft in a place where no human eye may behold 
" me. We inftantly obeyed him : he was carried on board a vef- 
** fel, and with great difficulty we have landed him on this fhore : 
*' you will fee him either alive or dead. (It is to the Chorus that 
Hyllus addreflfes thisdifcourfe; then turning to-the queen, his mo- 
ther,) " Such is the efFedt of thy impious projedts: why am I not 
"j>ermitted to curfe thee? This is the leaft vengeance that a fon 
** can take upon a mother who has murdered his father, and the 
*' greateft of heroes." 

Dejanira retires without being able to utter a fingle word ; the 
Chorus endeavour to detain her. " Why, oh princefs ! doft thou 
« go away thus, without anfwering ? doft thou not know that filence 
*' is a tacit confeflSon of guilt?" *^ Detain her not, refumes Hyllus : 
*' oh! may fhe fly far from thefeeyes, whofe looks have confounded 
«* her: is it fit that fhe fhould bear the title of mother? {he who 
" has fobafely forfeited the character; let her fly then; let her in- 
" joy her crime, and may the fate (he prepared for my father, fall 
" folely on her own head.'* 

The filence of Dejanira is conceived in the fame fpirit with that of 
Eurydice, in the Antigone j and we (hall foon fee thatit is more judi- 
cially managed than this affeftcd line of Ovid's, fo often repeated 
in one epiftle. 

" Impia, quid ceflTas Dejanira mori?" 

When we arc refolved to die, we do not exhort ourfelves ta 
haften the ftroke, muclv lefs with fo great an appearance of art; 
filence is more elegant and more aflfefting. 
-The Chorus afterwards, from what they have heard from Hyllus, 
who likewife retires, recal to remembrance an ancient oracle> 
which foretold that Hercules, after twelve labours^ fhould enjoy an 



evcrlafting repofe : this oracle is now accompliihcd. The Chorus 
then refled: upon the misfortunes of Dejanira; they deplore the fa- 
tal eflfedts of her credulous jealoufy, and at length attribute all thefe 
woes to Venus. 

A C T V. 

Immediately thefe terrified virgins hear a great noife in th« 
palace, which prefages fomc fatal accident: Dejanira's con-*- 
ndant enters all in tears, and declares that her miftrefs is dead. 
" Scarce hadfhe entered the palace, faid fhe, when, at the light of 
*^ her fon Hyllus, who was going to meet his father, fhe turned 
** a fide to avoid him ; and falling profl:i:ate before an altar, there 
'* deplored her widowhood. When (he faw any thing that belong- 
** cdto Hercules^ bcreyeswere filled with tears. She wandered wild- 
** ly through the palace; if (he met any of her attendants, fhe 
** ihed torrents of tears, and imputed to the Gods the over- 
" throw of her family : when thefe firft tranfports were a little 
V fubfided, I £aw her fuddenly enter the apartment of her huiband, 
" and keeping myfelf out of fight, filently obferved her adions : 
** fhe adorned the bed of Hercules, bathed it with her tears, and 
^' fitting down upon it. Oh nuptial couch, faid fhe! this is the lafl 
** time thou wilt receive me. At thefe words (he opened her bofom : 
'* I flew to, call her ion; but when I returned, (he had (tabbed her- 
" felf with a poinajrd. Hyllus, foftened at this fight, with tears 
*' deplored a mother whom his reproaches had driven to this ex>- 
** cefs of defpair; for he had learnt but too late, that the Centaur 
" had deceived her. The unfortunate Hyllus, racked with grief 
♦* and rcroorfe, approached his dying mother; he embraced her; 
" he bathed her with his tears, exclaiming againft himfelf for hav- 
^ ing believed her guilty ; and againft the peculiar unhappinefs of 
•* his fate,, who was deprived of both parents in one day : fuch is 
'* the fad deftiny of this wretched houfe. After this let us depend 
*' upon the good fortune of one fingle day : too greedy of the next, 
** we never xefledt that the prefent hour is perhaps the laft we (hall 
*' enjoy/' 

The death of Alceftis*, in Euripides, refembles this -of Deja- 
nira ; and Virgil has evidently imitated thefe paflages of the Greek 
poets, when he (hews his Dido expiring, 

I I i im nw j i J I . 1 I I ' ■ ' I ' . p i m. I m^^ . KM > I I I II t >^ 

• Buripides Alc«fteis, part firft. V. 111. 

" Inca- 


♦ '^ Incubuitque Thoro, dixitque noviflima verba/' 

The daughters of Trachine, overwhelmed with grief for thefe 
two fatal accidents, know not where to begin their lamentations ; 
they would be tranfported into another country ; they dread the 
prefence of the raving Hercules, who is brought upon the ftage, 
furrounded with a numerous court in the utmoft afflidion for his 

The whole aflembly are kept in fu/pence by the foft fleep he 
fcems to enjoy; his fon Hyllus fuppofing him dead, breaks into 
lamentable cries; but an old man informs him that excefs of pain 
has thrown him into a flumber, and that it will be dangerous to 
awake him. A moment^after he opens his eyes, and cries out, 
*^ Oh Jupiter! into what region am I arrived? into whofe hands am 
•' I fallen ? ah I am torn in pieces ! my agonizing pains return !" 
Thenafterfomc interruptions, ** Oh thou promontory ofCenaeum, 
** where I have eredted fo many altars ! oh Gods, by me fo much 
*' revered ! is this the reward you referved for my piety?'* 

He afterwards gi\^es the moft lively and natural marks of infup- 
portable pain. The fcene of Hippolitus in Euripides is in the 
lame tafte. Hercules complains that, by their endeavouring to eafe 
his pains, they' increafed their force; he cannot bear any one to 
touch him; his tortures become more violent, " Where are ye, he 
** cries, ye robbers, of whom I have purged the forefts and the 
** fhores of the fea? death is my reward for it; and for an increafe 
«< to my mifery, I fee no perfon near me who will cut the thread of 
*' my wretched days; no one who withfteel and flames will break 
*« the bonds of an intolerable life/* The old man, the Chorus, and 
Hyllus, lament their incapacity to relieve him; but Hercules, 
feized with a new fit of anguifli, conjures his fon to plunge a poi- 
nard in his brcaft; it is the only kinonefs he can expeft from him: 
he implores, he begs for death, but in vain. At length he breaks 
into that beautiful fpeech quoted in the Tufculan difcourfes : 

<^ Oh Dejanira! muft I fall thy viftim? the implacable hate of 
«* Juno, the barbaroustyranny of Eureftheus, have been lefs fatal to 
*< me than the daughter of Oencus. It is (he who has entangled 
<< me in ^s fatal robe, as in a net wrought by the hands of the 
*^ Furies. Oh dreadful veil ! horrible prifon! my flefb is fattened 
^''to it, the venom penetrates into my veins, my thick black blood 
*' boils and waftes away, my body burning in concealed fires is 
«* reduced to a ihadowi what neither the Centaurs, the Giants, 

Vol. IL Mm " Greece, 


•* Greece, nor the whole world, which I have delivered from a 
" hundred monfters, could efFedt, a woman has attempted and 
" performed ; and I expire by her hands. Oh my fon ! do what a 
" name fo tender exacts of thee : be not fwayed by a falfe pity for 
** thy impious mother; go drag the fury hither, and beafpedlator 
** of her punifhment. I will this moment prove whether thy 
'* afFedion for thy mother orfor me is ftrongeft : go, I fay, obey mc 
'* inflantly, compaflionate a father whofe fufFerings are fo exqui- 
" fite. Alas, I weep ! I who was never heard to figh, or to com- 
" plain, midft all my fufl?erings : ah I blulh at my own weaknefs I 
'* come near my fon, judge of my tortures- —fee my bowels burft- 
** ing out — look on this body all you who are prefent, behold how 
'* cruelly it is mangled. Oh what new torment ! what flames cour 
^* fume me ! Great Jupiter, plunge me in the (hades of Tartarus I 
** ftrike me with thy thunders! ah my wounds open! what tor- 
'* ture, what pangs do I not endure ? what is become of this 
<* arm's boafted ftrength ? are thefe the hands that ftifled the Ner- 
" mean lion? yes, this is the arm which cut off the renowned 
" heads of theHydra, which vanquifliedthe Centaurs, anddeftroyed 
^^ the wild boar of Erimanthus : this is the arm that had force 
** enough to drag Cerberus from Hell, and cut in pieces the dra- 
** gon which guarded the golden fruit: this arm has lignalized it- 
" felf by a thoufand glorious exploits, and never found an enemy 
« able to oppofe it. Look on it now, alas ! fee to. what a mifera- 
** ble ftate it is reduced; wafting with a fccret poifon„it is no loa- 
** ger to be known. The fon of Jupiter and Alcmcna dies by the 
'* hand of a perfidious wife; hut I will have vengeance, although I 
^ (hould be annihilated. Let her come then, that from her pu- 
^* niftiment the world may learn that Hercules, dead as he appears.^ 
" is ftill the fcourge of the wicked.'* 

This paffage muft needs have been in the true tafte of antiquity,i 
fince Ovid has imitated it in his Metamorphofe&: he has alfo im^ 
prwed upon it, by adding this beautiful thought: 

^ Defeffa jubendo eft 
*' Sava Jovis cor^ux; ego fum inddfeffiis agendo.'' 

It is to be wiflied that Ovid, radier than Seneca, had left us the 
Greek tragedies altered by his hand, as he has done with regard 
to fome that have not come down to us; and which have given n^ 
reafon to regret the lofs of thofe mafter-pieces of the tragic ge- 
nius, the traces of which we fee ia his Mctamorphofcs. 


Hyllus, undeceived with refpedl to his mother's guilt, endeavours 
to undeceive Hercules likewife, which makes a great dramatic in- 
cident; for Hercules believes that his fon is moved by anunjuftifi- 
able compaffion for Dejanira^ and refufes a long-time to hear him: 
at length Hyllus acquaints him with the innocence of Dejanira, 
her jealouly, her death, and the artifice of the Centaur. At the 
mention 01 Neffus, the eyes of Hercules are opened ; he calls to 
mind an oracle he had received, and relates it to his fon. Jupiter, 
he faid, had predided to him, that a dead perfbn (hould de- 
prive him of life ; this dead perfon is the Centaur. He compares 
this oracle with a later one, which has been already mentioned : 
namely, that Hercules Ihould from henceforward enjoy continual 
repofe. All thefe circumftances leave him no longer any room to 
doubt that his end is near; therefore he intreats his fon to promife 
him obedience in a certain point, which he will not reveal till he 
has this promife. 

The reft of this fcene is throughout in the tafte of the theatre ; 
for the audience is here kept in a wonderful fufpence. The father 
requires an oath from his fon, and when obtained tells him his fecret 
and his laft requeft. It is to carry him to Mount Oeta, to place 
him on a funeral pile, and fet fire to it with his own hands ; and 
this he muft perform upon pain of his eternal curfes. 

The laft article fills the youth with horror. " Ah ! what is it 
" thou commandeft me to do ? fays he ; muft I be the murderer of 
** my father ?" Hercules infifts that he ftiall perform all the other 
offices at leaft ; and Hyllus confents, provided this laft fatal one 
is not required of him. The father however, not fatisfied with 
this inftance of his obedience, exadls another of him, which meets 
with equal repugnance* He muft marry lole. How! cries the 
fon ; marry her who has deprived me of both my parents! oh no! 
** The wretch who can be guilty of fuch a crime muft be agitated 
<« by the Furies. Death will be lefs dreadful to me than this hated 
" marriage.'* Hercules reiterates his command, and threatens him 
with his everlafting difpleafure if he difobeys. Hyllus refifts as 
long as was Confiftent with the duty and fubmiffion of a fon to a 
father ; but upon being aflured that it is the will of the Gods that he 
fhould marry lole, he yields, faying, that he cannot poffibly offend 
the Gods by obeying a father. 

Hercules, fatisfied with his promife, and being defirous to 
avoid another fit of torture, orders his attendants to take him 
up wd convey him to the pile. He animates himfelf to fuf- 

M m 2 fcr 


fuftcr patiently the new pangs this motion gives him, and fljflcs 
the cries of nature. " Oh foul, cries he, inured to fufFering! oh 
** heart of iron, fupprefs thy fighs ! di/honour not Hercules !" His 
weeping fon helps to carry him, prepared in fpite of himfclf, to 
render him the fad office which his father hadexaded. 

Such is the laft fcene, but its beauty and fpirit cannot be Ihewn 
in a bare analyfis ; and fince there is nothing in it repugnant to 
our manners, I may venture to give it here entire. A judgment 
may be better made how much is loft by the change of manners ;. 
which, not to Ipeak of other difficulties, make it impoffible for us 
to tranflate completely the works of the ancients : we need only 
join the fcene which we arc now going to read to the piece which 
Cicero has tranflated, and which Hercules utters in his madnefs. 

The Chorus, greatly affedted with the torments he fufFers, cry 
out, " Oh wretched Greece ! how wilt thou mourn if thou art 
** deprived of this hero ?'* 

HvLLus to bis father. If thou wilt permit me to anfwer, I would 
conjure thee, notwithftanding the fad condition thou art in, to 
hear what I have to fay ? This is but juftice^ calm thy rage a mo- 
ment, otherwife thou wilt never know what thou oughteft to la- 
ment, and what to rejoice at. 

Hercules. Speak, but make an end foon^ iinking under pain 
and grief, I cannot penetrate into obicurities. 

HvTLLUs. I have but two words to fay to thee concerning my 
mother and thy wife, her innocence and her fate. 

Hercules. Ha! dareft thou fpeak to me of my murdrefs ? 

Hyllus. The fecret I have to reveal to tiiee obliges me ta 
break filence : my mother was not guilty. 

Hercules. Not guilty! 

Hyllus. Thou thyfelf wilt acknowledge her innocence wheni 
thou knoweft all. 

Hercules. Speak then; but tremble left by a falfe tendernefs^ 
thou fliouldft render th)rfelf unworthy of the name of my fon». 

Hyllus. My mother is dead : a mortal wound, — 

Hercules. By whofe hand was (he puniihed? 

Hyllus. Her own hand ft ruck the blowi. 

Hercules, Perfidious woman! this was to rob me of a. juftL 
revenge. Why can I not 

Hyllus. Tnou wilt not fpeak thus^ when thou knoweft all, 

Hercules. Go on» let xx^ hear the reft of this ftrange ad-^ 

1 Hzi^ 


HvLLUs. Her crime was an error; her intentions . were not 

Hercules. Her intentions right ! and yet fhe has murdered 
thy father. 

Hyllus. She believed (he was preparing a philtre> and not a. 
poifon for thee. She was jealous of lole, and only fought to re-- 
cover thy heart. 

Hercules. Is there in Trachine any ibrcerer fo powerful ? 

Hyllus. It was from the Gentaur NefTus, that fhe received 
this philtre. ' 

fjERCiriiES- From Neflus ! then I am loft. Ah, I fee it plainly ! 
my death is unavoidable. Go my fon, and fince thou wilt foon be 
deprived of a father, go and fummon my whole family hither, but 
particularly the unfortunate Alcmena, whom Jupiter in vain gave 
me for a mother. Go, it is neceffary that I fhould declare to them 
the oracles I have received concerning my deftiny^ 

Hyllus. Alas, Alcmena is not here! fhe is at Tyrinth* with 
fome of your children; the reft are at Thcbca; I am here alone, 
but ready to obey thee in aU things. 

Herculbs. Hear then the oracleSr my ion, and let thy acSlions 
fhew from whom thou deriveft thy birth. Jupiter my father fore- 
told me that no man living fhould put a peciod to my days, but 
that Ifhoukl fall by an inhabi^nt of the fhades; my fate is fulfilled; 
it is the dejMl Centaur who has deftroyed nae. Let us compare this 
oracle with another I received lately : as I entered the facred foreft of 
DodoRft, a {»:ophetic oak affigned me this day of my return, as the 
beginning of a lafting repofe. By this prediction, I underftood that 
a happy life was decreed me, but death was the latent meaning; 
death, which, is the end of all our calaniities. Enter then, oh my 
fon, into my defigas! delay not till my frenzy returns ; fulfil the 
holieft of all laws, obey thy father. 

Hyllus. Oh heavens! to what tends t^iis difcourfe? but it is 
ikot for me to examine thy defigns;. declare thy commands, behold 
me ready to obey thee. 

Hercules. Give me thy hand as a pledge of fhy faith. 

Hyllus. Alas my father ! why this anxiety, canft thou doubt of 
my obedience ? 

^'TTrinth, a neighbouring City of ^gos, fo called from the rirer TjrinHi. It was the 
nativccountrxofHerculesiiiad wasfurnamed Thebao,,bfanifc AmoHH^*^ vtas ofTbebe?. 



Hercules. Come near I fay, and then let thy obedience 
be ftiewn. 

HvLLUS. Since thou wilt have it fo, here is my hand. 

Hercules. Swear by Jupiter my father. 

Hy LLUS. Ah ! what am I to fwear ? what is it I muft do ? 

Hercules. That which I (hall tell thee afterwards. 

Hyllus. I will do it: I call to witnefs Jupiter, the guardian 
of oaths. 

' Hercules. Bind thyfelf by fome dreadful punifhments, if 
thou faileft in obedience. 

Hyllus. Alas! how is it poffible that I fliould difobey thee? 
but fince thou wilt have it fo, I here bind myfelf to perform thy 
will upon pain of the fevereft punifhments. 

Hercules. Thou knoweft the fummit of mount Oeta, confe- 
cf ated to thy anceftor Jupiter. 

Hyllus. I know it wells have I not offered many facrifices 

Hercules. There is to be offered another now: thou, with the af- 
liflance of thy friends, mufl carry me to the top of this mountain^; 
when there, ereft a funeral pile ofoaks and wild olives, place me upon 
it, and fet fire to it with thy own hand. No tears I cnarge thee, no 
groans, not even a fighj it is by this noble fortitude that I fhall 
know thee for my fon. If thou refufefl to perform this office, 
thy father, tho' in the (hades, will purfue thee with unfated ven- 

Hyllus. Oh my father ! what haft thou faid ? what commands 
are thefe? 

Hercules. Thou muft execute them: if thy heart ballances, 
I renounce thee for my fon. 

Hyllus. Alas! alas! what haft thou ordered me? muft I be 
a parricide to merit the title of thy fon? 

Hercules. A parricide! no, but my deliverer. 

Hyllus. Thy deliverer! what by cafting thee in the midft of 

Hercules. If to perform this laft fad office fills thee with fo 
much horror, I will difpenfe with that; but at leaft do the reft. 

Hyllu s. I will : this arm fhall help to bear thee to mount Oeta. 

Hercules. And wilt thou build the pile? 

Hyllus. I will do this; for nothing (hall appear hard for me, 
provided I am not your murderer. 



Hercules. Thou muft, my Hyllus, crown all thefc fervices by 
one flight inftance more of duty. 

Hyllus. What would I not do for my father? 

Hercules. Hear then what I farther require of thee: the 
daughter of Eurytus — 

Hyllus. lole. 

Hercules. Her, if thou haft any regard to the oaths thou haft 
fvvorn to a father; if thou haft the tendernefs of a fon for him, 
hear me, Icommandthce; take care that thou doft notdifobeyme^ 
thou muft 

Hyllus. What? 

Hercules. Thou muft marry lole*: thou only art worthy of 
her whom Hercules has loved. Anfwer not, but refolve to obey 
me; thy fubmiflion to my firft requeft requires that thou fliouldeft 
make this effort. 

Hyllus. Oh heaven* ! but thy condition obliges me to reftrain 
my juft complaints. Ah ! what heart . could without horror re- 
ceive a propofal fuch as this ? 

Hercules. Thou wilt not obey me then? 

• The reverend father Poree has ihewn tes; for this Prince whtn he is dying, giyer 
me, that Racine concurs with Sophocles, or Monimia to Xiphar«$> as Hercules gives 
l»s exprefly imitated him in his Mithpida- lole to Hyllus. 

Mais vous me tenez lieu d'empire, de couromie, 
Vous feule me rellez. SoufFrez que je vous donne, 
Madame, & tous ces voeux que j'exigeois de vous, 
Mon coBur pour Xipharea vous les demande tous; 

Mithr. Sc« the laft. 

Yet it is. certain,, that the fituation was piece to the theatre, and his tragedy to the 

very diflferent : Xipharus was in love with French tafte. However lole Is the cauie of 

Monimia, and the rival of his father. Where ^ the death of Alddes ; and Monimia of thafr 

as,. Hyllus confented- with reUi^nce to wed of M^thridates, Monimia fays herfelf ; 
Lole. But Racine has, as it is faid, fitted his 

Helas, & plftt aux Dieux qu'a foivfort inhumain. 
Moi-meme j'euiTe p4 ne point preter la main, 
£t que fimple temoin du malheur qui Paccable 
Je le pufle pleurer &n&en etre coupable. 

The more we examine thefe two trage- fllew how he has formed himfelf upon the 

dies, the more probable it feems that Mi- ancient tragic poets ; even in thofe pieces^ 

thridateswas founded on thftTracU i i a.i vm m <» wImc* he is Uaft fufpefled of imitation* 

And if this work (hould be fo well received This comparifon muft needs be equally ad*^ 

as to encourage me to continue it, I fiiall vantageous to Racine, and* to the ancient 

colgrJiurtbcr into Rucine's tmitations, and Hieatre*. 





ONE of the Scnecas, or rather, he who has aflumed their 
^ name, and who underftood the drama no better than they did, 
in treating of the fubjeA we have juft been examining, has not 
wholly followed the fame conduit any more than in all the others 
which he has handled, after the Greek tragic writers 5 and ftiU 
lefs has he endeavoured to copy their inimitable and noble fimplicity. 
The perfons of Seneca's drama are Hercules, Dejanira, Ale- 
mena, Hyllus, lole, a Confidant, a Chorus of Oetolian women, 
another Chorus of Oechaliennes, Philodetes and Lychas : fome of 
thcfe are only introduced to adorn the fqenc. 

A C T I. 

Hercules firft appears, but without informing us where or why 
he appears. However this is not Hercules; it is the captain of the 
Vtfionaries: it is ftill worfe. 

** Father of the Gods, fays the Latin Alcides, thou mayft now 
" reign fecurely. This arm has given thee peace : there is no 
*« longer any need of thy thunders ; no barbarous tyrants, no per- 
•* fidious kings remain on earth : I have extirpated all who merit 
" thy indignation, and yet heaven is denied me ftill. My obedi- 
" ence has fhewed me what I am, a fon worthy of Jupiter. Even 
'« Juno, the implacable Juno has acknowledged me for thy fon. 
** Why then doft thou delay my juft reward? art thou afraid that 
<' Atlas who fupports the heavens, will fink under the additional 

'* weight 


*' weight of Hercules. Death and hell have not been able to hold 
** me." Here he enters into a detail of his labours ; not in the 
manner of the Hercules of Sophocles, but always as an idle 
boafter. He afterwards goes on thus : " I afk thee not, oh my 
** father ! to point out to me the road to heaven ; I know already 
*• how to find it. Art thou afraid that the earth fliould produce 
*' new monfters ? let her hafte then to bring them forth while yet fhe 
** enjoys the prefcnce ofHerculcs." According to him, none will ever 
be able to imitate his a£Uons: the fun could not keep pace with 
his travels; he has got to the end of nature, and can go no farther 
on the earth : he has violated eternal night : he has fuftained all 
the rage of the fea; the moft dreadful ftorm could not wreck the 
veffel that had Hercules on board. At length, nothing more re- 
mains for him to do on earth, becaufe fhe dare not produce a new 
race of monfters. Thejeft is, that reflediijg on the hatred Juno 
bears him, he fays, that fhe has transferred the monfters to heaven. 
Can we poflibly guefs how ? why there are in the heavens figns 
and conflellations, which men have thought proper to diftinguifh 
by the names of lion, bear, ferpent, &c. He has a thought mcH-c 
extravagant flill ; for he tells us that his labours are placed in hea* 
ven before him, and that he fees all his great exploits written 
there; but that Juno was refolved to render the celcftial manfions 
formidable to him, filling them with thefe monfters. Strange 
puerility ! however this is not all. Juno, he fays, had better not 
refufe him a place in heaven 5 for if fhe continues obftinate, he 
will overthrow aU, new form the earth, join Spain to Sicily, pre- 
fcribe other bounds to the fea, and open new paths for the rivers. 
*' Jupiter, adds he, thou mayft confide the guardof the Gods tome, 
** and rely fecurely upon Hercuks for the care of the whole ce- 
** Icftial region when he is there. The frigid, or the torrid 
'« zone, it matters not > be affured the Gods fhall be in fafety 
*« fr©m one pole to the other.*' At length he draws a com- 
parifon between himfelf and other deified mortak ; fuch as Apollo, 
Bacchus, and Perfeus. '* What hav^ they done after all, fays he, 
*' to merit divine honoursr? one of them killed the ferocnt Python; 
•« but how many Pythons were there in the Hydra of Lerna ? an- 
•< other conqueredlndta ; what is that to the whole fuhjedtedworld P 
«< the third cut off the head of Meduia ; this was but one mon- 
** fler only defboyed." After this boafting fpeech, he fends Ly- 
chofl^ to Dejanira, and commands fome of his other attendants to 
convey the vidtims to the temple of Cena^um. Here we begin to per- 

N n 2 ceive 


ceive that Hercules is not yet at Trachine, which is confirmed by 
what follows. The adlion is then performed in more places than 
one ; for Dejanira, who appears foon after, is fuppofed to be at 
Trachine, as Sophocles reprefents her. 

It is not thus that the judicious Greek poet explains his fubjeft; 
he does not give us declamations, but lively pictures. He introdu- 
ces Dejanira complaining of her hulband's abfence, and full of anx- 
iety for his fafety. Then Hyllus appears, who is fent by the af- 
flicted queen to find out his father: afterwards fhe hears the 
happy news of Alcides's victory. From this beginning fo fimple 
and fo natural is produced all thofe wonderful events which the 
poet difplays in the fequel; for his purpofe was what Horace 
prefcribes : 

** Non fumum ex fulgore, fed ex fumo dare lucem cogitat/' 

But after hearing Seneca's Hercules, who opens the play, we 
cannot help faying after Horace, 

'* Quid dignum tan to feret hie promiflbr hiatu ?" 

Before we proceed any farther, the reader perhaps will not be 
difpleafed to fee the Latin fcene of Hercules foftenedin French by 
Rotrou, in his tragedy of Hercules dying. We (hallthere perceive that 
it is Seneca, after all who has (if we may dare fay fo) carried the 
French drama to that heigth to which it attained in its finefl age. 

*' Puiflant moteur des Dieux, fcrme appui de la terre, 

*' Seul etre fouverain, feul maitre du tonnerre, 

" Goiite enfin, roi des cieux, ledoux fruit de mes faits, 

*' Qui par tout Tunivers one ^tabli la paix. 

" J'ai d'entre les fujets la trahifon bannie. 

'* J'ai des rois arrogans puni la tyrannic, 

*' Et rendu ton renom fi puififant & fi beau 

" Que la foudre en tes mains n eft plus qu'un vain fardeau. 

** Des objets de ton bras, le mien eft Thomicide, 

^^ Et tu n'as rien a faire apres les faits d' Alcide. 

" Tu n'as plus a tonner: & del toute fois. 

•* M'eft encore interdit apres tous ccs exploits/* 

Thefe verfes, noble as they are, have ftill fomewhat of the fpirit 
of boafting : however the Hercules of Rotrou is lefs extravagant 
than Seneca's ; and in what follows he has foftened him ftill more: 

« Parois 


<* Parois-je encore un fils indigne de mon pere ? 

" Junon n'a-telle pas aflbuvi fa colere ? 

*^ N*a-telle pas aflez par fon averfion 

<• Fait paroitre ma force & mon extra<5tion? 

*' N'ai-je pas Ibus mes loix aflervi les deux poles ? 

** Et celui dont le ciel charge tant les cpaules. 

•' Et fur qui ce fardeau repofe pour jamais, 

** Ne me peut-il porter avec ce rude faix ? 

" Ainii que mes exploits rends ma gloire parfaite: 

" La Parque. t'a remis le foin de ma defaite 

*' Et de quelques eiforts qu'elle attaque mes jours 

" L'impuiffante qu elle eft n*en peut borner le cours, 

** L'air, la terre, la mer, les infernales rives 

** LaiiTent enfin ma vie & mes forces oifives. 

*' Et voyant fans effet leurs monftres abbattus 

" Ces foibles ennemis n'en reproduifent plus. 

'* Tere de la clart6, grand Aftre, ame du monde, 

•^ Quels termes, n'a franchis macourfe vagabonde? 

♦* Sur quels bords a-t'on vu tes rayons etales, 

** Ou ces bras triomphans ne fe foient fignal6s ? 

** J*ai port^ la terreur plus loin que ta carriere, 

" Plus loin qu'ou tes rayons ont port6 la lumicre. 

'* J'ai force des pais que le jour ne voit pas. 

** Et j'ai vu la nature au*del^ de mes pas. 

" Neptune & les Tritons ont vu d'un oeil timide 

*' Promener mes vaiflcaux fur leur campagne humide. 

" L^air tremble comme Tonde, aufeul bruit demon nom, 

** Et n*ofe plus fervir la haine de Junon. 

" Mais qu'en vain j'ai purg^ le fejour ou nous fommes! 

" Je donne auximmortels la peur que j'6te aux hommes f. 

** Ces monftres, dont ma main a delivre cent lieux 

" Profitent de leur mort, & s'emparent des cieux. 

'^ Le foleil voit par eux fcs maifons occupees : 

" Sans en ^tre cnafl(6s, ils les ont ufurpees. 

•* Ces vaincus qui m'ont fait fi celebre aux neveux 

** Ont au ciel devant moi la place que j'y veux. 

*' Junon dont le courroux ne peut encor s'eteindre 

" En a pcuple le ciel pour me le faire craindre. 

** Mais qu'il en foit rempli de Tun k Tautre bout, 

" Leurs efforts feront vains; ce bras forcera tout.. 



Rotrou, it is plain, has omitted many paflages as turgid as diofe 
he has taken. If he had defigned, for example^ to expreia Her- 
cules's threat of overturning all nature, he rnignt have put into his 
mouth what the Artabazus^, of the Viiionaries fays which k in 
the exadl tafte of Seneca. 

" Qupi done, je fuis oifif & je ferois fi liche, 

" Que mon bras p6t avoir tant ibit peu de relache? 

'* O Dieux! faites fortit d un antre tenebreux 

" Quelque horrible geant, ou quelque monftre af&eux : 

** S'il faut que ma valeur manque un jour de matiere^ 

*' Je vais faire dii monde un vafte cimetiere.'* 

This is literally the fpeech of Hercules. 

The fecond the French tragedy is not conduced with 
more judgment than the firfl:; but at leaft that is now difcovered 
which ought have been known before, that Hercules is returning 
to Trachine, loaden with the fpoils of Oechalia, and followed by 
a great nudiber of captives ; among whom is lole, the daughter of 
the conquered king. 

lole and the reft of the captives complain of their deftiny, but 
in too unaffedting a manner to force tears from the audience : 
they weep in ientences and antithefes ; yet fpme of thefe are beau- 
tiful, as the following for example ^ 

'* Nunquam eft ille mifer cui facile eft mori* 
** Felices fequeris, mors, miferos fugisi" 

" They ought not to be called unfortunate who are at liberty 
•" to die. Oh death ! the happy only find thee, thou flieft the 
" miferable.** 

The triumph of Alcides is heightened by the miferies he has 
occafioned. They paint him as impenetrable to iron, and harder 
than fteel. Weapons are blunted upon his body 5 and what wea^ 
pons ? they give a minute defcription of thofe ufed by the Scythians, 
the Sarmatians, and the Parthians. His fingle weight has <over* 
thrown Oechalia. 

*' Muros Oechalte corpore propulit.'' 

•« What he refolves to fubdue is already fbbdued* Iffis deiSgns arc 
** fo many exploits." 

• A perfon in the Viiionaries. 



^' Vinccre quod paraa 
•' Jam viftum ^.'* 

'< His 'glance alone is more fatal than death," 

** Pro fato potuit vultus iniquior/* 

At length the captives confefs that they have one great advaur 
tage in their misfortune, which is, that it is extreme. They have 
nothing worfe to fear ; they have feen Hercules in his wrath. 

'* Commoda cladibus 
** Magnis magna patent. Nil fupereft mali;. 
^ Iratum miferae vidimus Herculcm." 

In concluixon : 

♦ ** Mais comme il n'eft peine d'ame fi forte 
** Qu^il ne s'en faille i la fin coiifolcr ; 

The Chortis comfort lole ; and for this purpofe employ an argu- 
ment drawn from the very excefs of their misfortunes, which can-- 
not admit of increafe. After this, they all go to prefent them- 
felves to Dejanira. '^ 

ACT li. 

An old woman,, the confidant of Dejanira, comes to declare the 
affliction of this princeis at the light of her rival lole : but wha 
has told Dejanira that lole is her rival ? Nothing has yet been faid- 
that (hews flie was informed of her misfortune. Sophocles mana- 
ges this incident with more art : he unfolds the myflery by de- 
grees. The curiofity of Dejanira begins, and the imprudent zeal 
of a courtier completes the melancholy difcovery. Seneca fup- 
pdfcs aJi this already done; but he ought to have given us notice of 
it at Icafl- Let us ice however, how the confidant prepares the 
mind of the audience for Ae fight of an injured and enraged wife ? 
It is by expreilions almofl as extravagant as thofe in the fcene of 
Hercules. She compares Dejanira to a tygriefs v and in this there 
is Jio exaggeration, for the defcription (he gives of her goes farther. 
** Her grief and rage burfl from her heart to her eyes ; wildly (he 
" wanders through the palace : the fgacious dome is too confined 
^ for her furious fleps." 

ilotrou, whohas tranflated this piece exadl'y, renders the thoughts 
in this icene literally. 

• ia JBojiXjiiic*. 



^' EUe court fans deifein, & fa courfe rapide 
** Cent fois a fait trembler tout le palais d'Alcide. 
" EUe renverfe tout, rompt tout, & fous fes pas 
*' La maifon eft 6troite, & ne lui fuffit pas. 
** Sa paleur fait juger du mal qui la poflcde ; 
*' La rougeur t6t apres ^ la paleur fuccede: 
*^ Elle verfe des pleurs, & dans le meme inftant 
" Du feu fort de fes yeux qui les fcche en fortant/' 
What thoughts are here ! iiowever we (hall have others more ex- 
travagant ftill. Dcjanira appears, but fhe is no longer that prin- 
cefs, virtuous tho' jealous, and fuch as Sophocles reprefents her : 
fhe is a Fury who would make her vengeance equal to the labours 
of Hercules, and her pcrfecutions greater even than Juno's.". In 
the Greek poet, fhe feeks only to recover the heart of her hufband : 
here her firft thought is a cruel revenge. Let Seneca give her 
another kind of jealoufy than Sophocles : let it be a jealoufy wrought 
up to madnefs ; we may be content to pafs that fault which chan- 
jges the face of the whole piece : we know how far the rage of a 
turious woman can go. 

* *' Notumque furens quid faemina poffit." 

But that Dejanira fhould exprefs herfelf like a demoniac is in- 
tolerable. Who can underftand her when fhe would have her 
bofom produce mdre monfters than Alcides has deftroycd : when 
file fays that all thefe monfters are adrually in her heart; and when 
fhe ftops to' give free courfe to thefe fhining thoughts which are 
more the language of wit than the heart. Yet there are beauties 
-in this fccne; as thefe for example : 

The Confidant. Thou wouldft die, 

Dejanira. I will die, but die the wife of Hercules, ere he 
has difhonoured himfelf by an unworthy pailion — or let him pe- 
rifh 5 or let him facrifice me : let him add his wife to the mon- 
^fters he has deftroyed: let him number my defeat among his tri- 
umphs : at leaft, I will expire upon the bed of Alcides 

'Alfo when the confidant, to comfort her, tells her, that in lole 
Hercules loved only a different conqueft ; and that his paflion was 
;it an end as foon as he had fubdued Eurytus her father, *• No 
" anfwersDejanira, he is enamoured even of themiferies oflole." At 
length the queen determined to die after facrificing her hufband 
and her rival to her juft revenge, fpeaks this beautiful line: 

•* Felix jacet quicunque quos odit premit." 
• Virgil B. 5. V. 6. 

c which 


«* Felix jacet quicunque quos odit premit" 

Which Rotrou, the faithful tranflator of Seneca, renders thus : 

^^ Et qui tuc en mourant doit mourir fatisfait.'* 

There arc many other thoughts of the fame kind, but thefe are 
commonly fpoiled by the other verfes, in which they may be faid 
to be drowned, and appear like true diamonds among a great number 
of falfe ftones. How coldDejanira's anger feems amidft fo much fire ! 
for in cffe<a, all this violence of rcfentment, which threatens nothing 
but flames and diggers, ends in calling in the affiftance of magic to 
compofea philtre. She orders her confidant to tinge with the blood 
-of ^feflu8 a robe, which (he defigns -ta fend to her unfaithful 
hufband : mean time, (he implores the Deity of love to favour her 
projeds. The operation is performed in an inftant 5 andLychas, 
who enters very feafonably without being fent for, and without 
tittering a word, is dilbatcned to Hercules with the robe. 

The Chorus, which is not the fame with that in the firft aft, 
but compofed of Etolian virgins in the intcreft of Dejanira, form 
the interlude upon thefe words of the queen, *' Lament my misfor- 
tunes." They prepare to obey her; but their ode, inftead of being 
plaintive, is nothing but a ledture of learned and j6ne morality up- 
on the text, '• The afflicftcd feldom find faithful friends." The 
comment is very long, and turns upon the miferies of princes con- 
trafted with the felicity of private perfons. This likewife is fo- 
reign to the fubjedl; but we could pardon it, if we found a few of 
thofe beautiful ftrokes which VirgU has given us upon the fame 

^^ O fortunatos nimium ; faa fi bona norint, 
" Agricolas!" 

^* Happy they who poiTefs the bleflings of a country life, if 
'" they were confcious of their good fortune." 


Dejanira tnters to grieve mechanically, if I may be permitted to 
ufe this term, to exprefs what is really the cafe. She acquaints 
the audience with the caufe of her grief; the magical operation 
was fcarce performed, and the robe fent to Hercules, when the re- 
mainder of the blood with which the robe had been tinged, being 
expofed to the air, melted and took fir^. Seneca, to defcribe this 
circumftance, has recourfe to geography, and feeks for mountains 

Vol. II. O o where 


where the (hows diflblve, and maritime coafts where the dafhing 
v^aves are changed into foam. " While I 'was wondering at this 
" prodigy> continues Dcjanira, the caufe of my aftoni^hment va- 
*^ nifhed ; the earth heaved like the waves of the £ba, and every thing 
" that the venom touched was fhaken." This is not Sophocles^ 
or rather it is the Greek poet fophifticated in Latin. See tnc fame 
thought dreft out in the manner of Rotrou« 

" Une obfcure filmed au milieu de la porte 
" M'a fait baiffer la vue, & j'ai vfi fur le feuil, 
" (O prodige, 6 fpedacle, ^pouvantable si Tceil) 
^ Sous deux goutes de (ang par hazard repandu& 
*• Du bois fe confumer, & des pierres fbnduSs; 
" L*air en 6toit obfcur, la terre en ^umoit; 
" Le fer en ^toit chaud^ & le bois en fumoit.*' 

If the tranflation is trifling, it is becaufe the French poet wa^ 
defirous of copying his original exaftly. 

Hyllus returns all on a fudden from the mountain of Cenaeum^ 
where he had feen Hercules clad in the fatal robe^ oJfcring a facri- 
fice to Jupiter, He begins thus : *• Fly mother, feek an ^{ylum 
" beyond fheboundaries of theocean, the ftars, and hell : fly if it be 
** poflible where the labours of Alcides have never been heard of: 
'^fly to the temples of Juno, they only will be open to thee.'* 
Juno, it mufl: be obferved, was the implacable enemy of Hercules: 
but one would imagine, that Hyllus had ftudied a long time for 
this Angular manner of exprefling his rage. Rotrou makes him 
fpeak more fcnfibly in the following lines. 

^< Alez, courez, fuyez, hi quoi» CMdamc ? 6 Dieux t 
" Aprcs cet accident vous ctes dans ces lieux! 
" Helas, fi quelque route en ce danger extreme 
" Va plus loin que la terre, & que I'Erebe meme>, 
" Et dont Hercule encor n*ait aucun fouvenir, 
" Courez ; c'efi: le chemin que vQis devez tenir." 

He afterwards tells her, that the infected blood of Neflfus hacf 
murdered his father : but who ha« informed him of the magical 
operation ? This news throws I>cjanira into delpair. Hyllus gives 
a circumftantial account of all that had happened; but tnis is dene 
with fo little judgment and propriety, that a flight fketch wiU 
be fuflicient to give the reader an idea of it. 

*^ Her- 

H.Elt<:4rtE^ DEMOUNT OBTA^ 2B5 

<* Hercules was m the midft of his prayers to Jupiter, wheii^ 
€€ ^deoly % ^oan efcaped hkn : the groan of Hercules refounded 
^< like a dreiadful cry ; like the roaring of a wounded bull ; like 
** thofe peals of thunder which threaten the whole univerfe with 
«« deftru^ion. This groan rebounded to the ftars and the ocean ; 
"^ even the Cyclades and the moft diftant coafts reechopd it. Mer«- 
" cules is now feen to weep. We fiippofe him feized with new 
*< pang^: all tremble, all fly; but the hero cafling around his eyes 
*^ enflaoied with rage and pain, fought Lychas only. The un- 
«* happy wretch embraced toe altar, terror feized him, and left hini 
<« fc^rce life enough to fuffer. Alcides feized his hand : this is 
^^ the hand, faid he, which will be faid has fubdued me^ Her* 
** cules died by Lychas, and c^, what increaie of infamy ! I^ychas 
** will receive his death from Hercules. I (hall pollute my 
** noble deftiny, and the death of this unhappy wretch fhall be 
«* the laft of my labours. That inftant Lychas was hurled into 
** the air, and fprinkled the clouds with his blood. Such a (hot 
** let fly by one of the Getae, or by a Cydonian *, arifes in the air 
** but not fo high, &c." 

The refl: is of the fame turn : it is made up of fome very fine 
veries, mixed with the falfe fublime. Rotrou, faithful as he is to 
Seneca, has not ventured to tranflate the greateft part of thefe 

Alter this recital, the fame jingle of antithefis makes the an* 
fwer of Dejanira. Reading it feriouily and coolly, one would be 
tempted to think that fhe had not common fenfe ; fo much fhe 
endeavours after conceits, vdbich turn always upon a needle's 
point ; for there is this in the tragic enthufiafm of that age, it goes 
always pn with the fame fenfe like thofe pieces of bad mufic which 
quiver continually on the fame note* Dejanira's long fpeech figni- 
fies nothing more but that ihe is miferable, and refolved to die. 
la Sophocles, fhe retires without uttering a fingle word. This is 
the ifo-oke of amafler, the beauty of which, a genius corrupted by 
falfe tafle, was not capable of feeling; a judicious. reader cannot be 
pkafed with the falfe fiiblime which is here fubftituted in the place 
of that eloquent fiience. 

This tedious ipeech isr followed, as ufual, by quick quefUons 
aiid replies, between the queen aiKl her coi^dant. It is not the 
manner which I biaoie here ; for that is good, and proper for the 
drama : when it is natural, nothing is more lively, or more capa- 

* Cyiotif a town id Crete. 

O 2 We 


ble of 4ncreafing the itnpreilioiv already made on the minds of the 
fpedtators; but it is ano true that- nothing is more difagreeable 
when in fuch dialogues nature is entirely laid afide^ and the poet's 
art every where appears without any other fire than that of a meer 
declaimer» which after all, is but a borrowed fire. ' The moft in- 
genious fentiments are then cold and unafFeding ; one example of 
this (hall fuffice- 

The confidant blames Dejanira for not juftifying hcrfelf to Hyl- 
lus, fince it was not her intention that the philtre ihould have that 
fatal efFedt; her crime was a miftake only. In Sophocles, we. wilt 
grant it is fo, but not in Seneca. Let us fuppofe however, that 
the wife of Hercules is innocent, as the Latin poet condefcends ta 
fuppofe her after what (he did in the fecond ad: : in that cafe the 
following converfation between the queen and her confidant is lefs 
'exceptionable than any other. 

" NuTRix. Nocens vidcri qui cupit, mortem cupit*. 

" De JAN- Mors innocentes fola deceptos facit. 

'* NuTRix. Titana fugies ? Dejan. Ipfe me titan fugit. 

*• NuTRix. Vitam relinques mifera ? Dejan. At Alciden fequar.. 

'« NuTRix. Supereft, & aures ille caeleftcs trahit. 

" Dejan. Vinci Hercules cumpbtuit, hinc capset mori, &c." 

Confidant. To wifli for death is to be willing to appear 

Dejanira. The faults of inadvertency can be expiated only 
by death. 

Confidant. Wouldft thou fly the light of day ? 

Dejanira. I would; becaufe the l^ht detefb and flies 
from me. 

Confidant. Wouldft thou quit life ? 

Dejanira. Yes, to follow Alcides. 

Confidant. Alcides is not yet dead. 

Dejanira. But he is fubdued, and to him this is the firft ap** 
proach of death. 

Perhaps we might pardon this thought, if it ftood alone ; but it 
is carried too far, and furrounded with the falfe luftre of others 
which debafe it. The confidant, in the extravagance of her ten- 
dernefs for her miftrefs, endeavours to perfuade her, that the blood 
of Neflus infefted with that of the Hydra will not be mortal to 
Hercules 5 becaufe that hero had killed both the Hydra and the 
Centaur, without fuffcring from their -poifons. Thefe arguments 
having no efied, fhe has recourfe to tears and prayers; but Deja- 


nira has already taken her reiblution: (he will be judified only in 
the fhades. She demands with loud cries, the tortures inflicfted 
on Sifiphus^ Ixion» Tantalus^ and the Danaides : (he enumerates 
thofe barbarous wives who have betrayed their hulbands, to p e- 
vail upon the Gods to aflbciate her in their punifliment; and to 
jQiut the gates of Elyfium for ever upon hex. A refle<aion on her 
innocence confoles her for a moment. " Oh great Alcides, fays 
** fhe, my heart was innocent* my hand only is guilty." 

<* Inviifte conjux, innocens animus mihi. 
«« Scelefta manus eft.** 

And now fhe is willing to defer her death* and expedt it front 
the hand of Hercules, if this willfatisfy his vengeance: (he wifhes 
that he may da(h her wretched body againft a rock» as he did that 
of Lychas ; and that he may hurl her into the moft diftant places^ 
even into a world unknown to her. This is a burlefque thought* 
which fpoils a pafTage* in which there are fome beauties. Rotrou • 
Kas imitated part of this abfurd ftuff* and has omitted the reft ; ii^ 
which he fliewed greater judgment. 

** Que de cette montagne i tant d'autres fatale 

** Ce corps pr^cipit^ jufqu'aux enfers devale ' 

<* Que mon fang fur ce mont faffe miUe ruiifeaux* 

*' Qu^i ces pierres mon corps laifle autant de morceaux^ 

« Qujcn un endroit du roc ma main refte pendue*, 

«« Et ma peau d^hir& en d*autres 6tendue t 

** Une mort eft trop douce, il faut la prolonger, 

^* Et mourir d'un feul coul, c'eft trop peu le venger." 

Though thefe verfes, like many others^ are of the famecaft with 
the poem of the Pucelle*. it is proper to lay them before the readers^ 
to give them a juft idea of the ieveral changes of poetry, and of the 
hiftory of tafte, which we deduce in this work. 

Hyllus, whom Seneca makes a witnefs of his nwther^s defpair, is 
filent hitherto: it was a long time to be fo in fuch a conjuncture i. 
but at length, undeceived with regard, ta her guilt, he endeavours 
to perfuade her to take no violent refolutions againft herfelf. De- 
janira however conjures him to haften her fate, and even to kill 
her with his own hands. •* What ftops thee, my fon ? fays fhe ; 
** this adtion will be pious in thee. Thou art irrefolute, and yet I 
•' have deprived thee of Hercules. If crimes are new to thee, 
^* learn of a mother to commit them/' After fome other ftrokes 



of the fame kind> Dejanira grows mad. She fancies flie iees Meganu 
who puriues her with a flaming torch ; that hell opens to ncavc 
her; that the palace (hakes, and the whole univede is armed 
againft her. Thefe are fine images; but all this buftle made pub • 
licly by a woman with her hair di(hevelled, is the ibk caufe that 
hinders her from killing herfelf. In Sophocles, Dganira makes 
lefs noife, and therefore executes her defign without oppofltion. 
Here fhe tells every body what (he intends to do, and no one at* 
tempts to hinder her; this furely is not naturak 

Hyllus, it is true, deliberates whether he fiiall not follow his mo- 
ther and endeavour to preferve her from the efie<fls of her own 
frantic rage, but he is feized with a fcruple of confcience. He is 
apprehenfive that by this attention to his mother, he will incur 
fome kind of guilt towards his murdered father : he ibon Aifles 
this ridiculous fear indeed, by a more fenfible refleiftion, and runs 
after Dejanira, but it is now too late. He only deliberated as it 
would feem] to give her time to ftrike the blow; for it is neceflary 
that Dejanira fhould die as Sophocles makes her. The Greelc 
tragic writers, by following nature and good ienie, which they 
preferred to a Ihining icene^ never fall into thefe abfurdities. 

'" Nee dcfilies imitator in ardtum 
** Unde pedem referre pudor vetet, aut operis lex." 

The interlude made by the Chorus amounts to juft nothing; 
this is the fubjcdl of it. " Hercules die^: fo true is the oracle of 
*• Orpheus, tnat nothing is eternal here below." This oracle, in 
which there is certainly nothing new or uncommon, gives occa- 
fion to the Etdians to relate the whole hiftory of Orpheus. But 
is this in its place? We would hardly pardon fuch a fault in a 
poetical novice. 

A C T IV. 

Hercules is brought in, and inftantly begins to ihew to what a 
"height his frenzy rages : the extravagancies he uttered while he 
was in his fenfes are litde, compared with the language of his 
madnefs. It is furpriling, that fo fine a genius as Rotrou &ould 
have fo far venerated either the real or fuppofed name of Seneca, 
as to have tranflatcd thefe paflages almoft literally. 

** Fais d'un rapide cours, prince de la lumiere, 
** A tes chevaux*ardcns rebroufler leur carricre, 



** Q^une ombce g^eralc obicurciile les airs, 
** Et ne fais point de jour abrs que je le pcttls/' 

Converter Titan clare^ anbelantes equos. 
Emitte noSiem. Tereat bis mundo dies 

** Alcide meurt> fans qu'en cette avtnture 
^^ Le cahos de retour coofiMde la nature ! 
'* La terre en cet efibrt eft ferme ibus mes pas : 
^« Les aftres font leur cours^ le ciel ne ie rompt pas I 
^' Juge comhien ma mort ^branle ta couronne. 

It is to Jupiter in perfon that he addrefles this fpecch. 

" Prcviens avec honneurce honteux accident : 

" Romps ce qu'on t'dtcroit^ pewis tout en me perdaat ."' 

Nunc pater caicum cabos 
Reddi decebat. Hinc & bine compagibus 
Ruptis uterque debuit frangi poius.. 
§iuid parcis adrist HercuUm amittis pater I 

But the beft^ c^aH is, diat this enthufiailic rant grows wilder and 
wilden The Chorus enter into it as by contagion, {o that it is a 
converfation of lunatics, or furies 5 but as amidft the horrors of a 
tempeft, theflafhes of lightning are («n> fo in this gloomy fcene 
fome fhining thoughts are perceived, as when Aleides laments that 
he did not fall a vidim to thoTe monfters he has fubdued, but ta ^ 
be referved to die by the hands of a woman. '* Is it poflible, adds 
*• he, that I ihould have loft fo many occafions of dying glo-^. 
*^ rioufly ?" 

^* Perdidi mortem, hei mihij^ 
« Toties honeftam !'' 

That fine pafTage in Sophocles which ws© tranffated either by r 
Cicero or AttiUus is well imitated^ The following is a Ipccimcnv 
of it, which Rotrou has taken from the Latin poet: 

*^ Eft-ce done la ce bras dont les faits font fi rares,. 
^' Ce vainqjueur des Tyrans, cet efFroi des barbares,, 
^* Ce fl6au de revoke, & de rebellions, 
^* Ce misuctrier de ferpens, ce deomteur de lioi^ ? ficc^u 



Yet this beautiful paflage is disfigured by the falfe luftre of 
others which follow it. Hercules, ignorant of the caufe of thofc 
torments which confume him, fays, as he tears out his bowels, 
" The difeafe has found a retreat beyond them. Oh difeafe ! too 
** like Hercules." Here he gives us tounderftand, that his diftem- 
per is invincible, like himfelf. The fucceeding thought would he 
fine, if it did not degenersite into impitty. 

*^ D'un regard de piti6 daigne percer la nue, 

** Et fur ton fils mourant arr^te un peu la vue. 

** Vois, Jupin, que je meurs; mais vois de quelle mort; 

'* Et donne du fecours ou des pleurs a mon ibrt. 

*^ J ai toujours du ma vie a ma feule d^fenfe: 

" Et je n'ai point encore implorS ta puiflance. 

*' Quand les t^tes de THydre ont fait entre mes bras, 

«* Cent replis tortueux, je ne te priois pas. 

*« Quand j'ai dans les cnfers affront^ lamort m£me, 

** Je n'ai point reclame ta puiiTance fuprSme; 

'* J'ai de monftres divers purg6 chaque element, 

** Sans jettcr vers leciel un regard feulement. 

** Mon bras fut mon recoufs; & jamais le tonnerre, 

" N a, quand j'ai combattu, gronde contre la terre: 

" Je n'ai rien iniplore de ton aiFeftion, 

** Et je commence helas, cette lacte action I ; 

" Aux prieres enfin ce feu me fait refoudre 

** Et pour toute faveur j'implore un coup de foudre." 

The Latin is clofer, and has more energy. 

** Tot feras vici horridas, 
^* Reges, tyrannos; non tamen vultus meos 
<* In eftra torfi. Semper haec nobis manus 
" Votum fpopondit." 

This laft thought is truly fublime. ^ My arm has been to me 
^* inftcadofadeity^ 

** Nulla propter ^me facro 
** M icuere caelo fulmina. Hie aliquid dies. 
•^ Optare juflit. Primus audierit preces 
** Idemquefummus. Unicum fulmen -peto." 

Certainly if thofe learned critics, who, upon the examination of 
theftyle of this tragedy, pronounced it not to be written by the author 
of the Medea, had given any attention to thispafTage, andtofbme 
others they would without any difficulty have afcribed it to him. It 
appears that Racine has imitated the turn I have juft mentioned in 
5 the 


tJiefecondicenc of the fourth aft of his Phcdra, where Thefeus implo- 
ring Neptune to revengic him on Hippolitus, lifes thefe terms : 

" Et toi Neptune, & toi, fi jadis mon courage 
" D'lnfimes aflaflins nettoya ton rivage, 
** Souviens-toi que pour prix de mes efforts heurcux 
^* Tu promis d chancer le premier de mes voeux. 
** Dans les longues rigueurs d une prifon cruclJe,,, 
** Je n'ai point implore ta puiffance immortelle.. 
** Avare dii fecours que j'attends de tcs foins,, 
** Mes voeux t'ont referve pour de plus grands beibins. 
, *' Je t'implore aujourd'hui. Venge un malheuteux pere:- 
" J'abandonne ce traitre a toute ta colere, 
** Etouffe dans fon fang fes defirs effrontes : 
** Theiee a tes fureurs connoitra tes bontcs." 

This parallel £bews how a fkilful and delicate hand may exert 
its art in a happy imitationri this is not only gathering diamonds 
MJt of the danghill of £janeis» 

** Enni de flercore gemmas:'' 

but it is likewife cutting and envbellifhing thofe which Rotroa 
•has l6ft imperJfeft. 

Hercules^ after imploring Jupiter to ftrike him with his thun- 
der, addreffcs hitnfelt thus to Juno: •* What more wouldft thou 
'« have, imperious Goddefs? thou beholdeft Alcides a fuppliant," 
He conjures nations, cities, and the whole univerfe to obtain death 
for him, as a recompence dud to his labours. This is a ftrain lois 
fwelling than the reft. Rotrou fays nobly, 

^ Pour prix de tant d'exploits je ne veux que la mort." 

Alcmona enters with Kiiloftetes, but we ard not fufficicntly pre- 
pared for their arrival. Seneca introduces Altmena here, becaufe 
Sophocles makes Hercules, when he is upon the point of fulfilling 
fiis deftiny, defire that his mother and all his family niay be called: 
but Hyllus rccals him from this wandering, and reminds him that 
Alcmena and all his children are far off. 

In Seneca, Hercules djefcribes his torments in a few words to 
Alcmena, and fills her wilfc the dcepeft affli<aion. As for Philoc- 
tetes, he is a mute perfonage ; fb that this whole fcene is nothing 
more than a continuation of Alcides's complaints. He bids them 
throw him into the fear, to extinguish the firre that confumes him ; 
§w the rivers are not iufficient : they would foon be dried up. He 
even fears that the ocean will fcarce have water enoujg^h to quench 

Vol- 11. . Pp his 


his flames* Rotrou adds to this, that Alcides^ when plunged ia 
the river Peneus*^ made the water hiis and boil; and that this 
vehement fire would convert the liquid element iiito itfelf. And 
a little above he fays, 

'* O cruelle douleur! d toorment! 6 ftiartyre ! 

** Ce lieu brule d^ja de Tair que je re(j>ire: 

'^ La place autour de moi fume de tOutes parts» 

•* Et ces humides fleurs f(k:hent a mes regards/' 

The fire of Seneca is ftill more a^ive^ and more contagious than 
that with which Hercules burned, as we may Icnowby theie vet- 
fcs of Rotrou*s, and by fomeof the great Corneille*s. 

Hercules, with his ufual extravagance, adds, that although he 
(hould be chained to mount Caucafus, and delivered up a prey to 
vultures : although as many mountains (and the poet here names 
them) (hould be heaped upon him as upon the Titans : although the 
whole world (hould faU upon him with furrounding flames, yet a 
figh (hould not efcape him ; he would be incapable of fear, arid 
repel it all. One might defy all the imaginations of 'the world' to 
conceive any thing ftrcfkiger than this : is it furpriiing, that after 
fuch ideas Hercules* (hould fall into a fwoon? 

During this interval, Alcmena offers up the nioft ardent -|>rayeFS 
for his'Ctire. -Hyllus appears, crying out that D^anira is dead, 
not m the<fame (imple manner that I mention it here, which, 
would have been fufficient ; but with aU thofe poetical orna- 
ments which coft the Latin poet fo little to furni(h« Hyllus (hould 
at leail hwe added that he had done every thin^ in his power to 
prevent his mother from killing herfelf, (ince he had haftened after 
her; but no, he followed her as it would feem only to be a witnefs 
of her death. Rotroujperceived this error of Seneca's, and has ju- 
diciouiflv avoided it. Alcmena, who apparently did not hear what 
. Hyllus nad (aid, intreats him not to awake Hercules ; but thispre^ 
caution is necdlefs. The hero recovers his (pirits, and fancies Kim* 
ielf tran(ported into heaven : it is one of the effeifts of rage ibothed 
into a calm, which is well managed. Rotrou was (enfible of this 
beauty, and has borrowed it. 

" Quel favorable fort a fini mes d^faftres, 

" Et m'a fait obtenir un rang parmi les aftres ; 

" O divin changcment ! 6 miracles divers 1 

** Mon pere a ma venue accourt les bras ouverts, &c." 

* Penius, ^ river of Thefialy : it runs between the moiintaint ef Oft and Olympin, 

and waters the TalJcy of Teui pc. 



But this celeilial (pedacle vanishes with his revexy. Hercules 
finds himfelfftill atXrachine^ and knows Hyllus^ who informs him 
of Dejanira's innocence and death. As ibon as the hero under- 
(lands that his torments are occafioned by the blood of NefTus, he 
refumes his tranquility, and like a fick perfon who is juft recovered 
from a long delirium (in Sophocles, it is only a flumber) he fays 

" Mes travaux out leur fin. 

*^ Ce que vous m'apprenez explique mon deftin/' 

For here he remembers the oracle which we have mentio ned in 
the tragedy of Sophocles. 

<< Appui des dieux & des humains ; ^ 

•* Vidtoricux Alcide, 
'* Un qui fera mort de tes mains 

•* Sera ton homicide/' 

He now prepares for death, and gives hisorders : apile is to beraif* 
ed upon mount Oeta; he commands Philoftetes to iet Hre to it, and 
Hylius to elpoufe lole. Hyllus makes no fcrupje to promife him 
obedience on this article; for the beautifulcontefl between the fa* 
ther and the fbn m Sophocles appeared to be too fimple to the 
Latin poet. At length Alcides conibles Alcmena for his death, 
by placing before her eyes the glory ftie had acquired, by giving, 
birth to an Hercules. Whether he be the fon of Jupiter or not, 
he thinks he deieryes at leaft to be thought his fon; and that this 
opinion whether true or falfe, will do honour to Jupiter. It is 
not neceflary to make any obfervations upon this trifling, if the 
riyer Achelous his rival had been prefentj he might have anfwered 
him as Ovid makes^ him, 

** Jupiter aut falfus pater eft, aut crimine verus : 
*• Matris adulterio patrem petis." 

All go out; and the Chorus fmplore the Sun to give notice of 
Alcides's death to the four quarters of the world, that all nations 
Oaay bewail the lofs of their deliverer- They alfo foretel the apo- 
fheofis of this new Demi-God, and aik him what part of the heavens 
the will refide in. They wifii his place may be next to the Lion, 
or Cancer, for fear that his looks only fhould trouble the courfe of 
the ftars, and amaze the fan: a ftrain of flattery this, which would 
ieem furprifing, if long cuftom had not made it familiar with ref- 
pcft to tnc emperors in the mouth of Virgil, the moft fenfible of 
poets; in thofe of Horace and Ovid, andofLucan in particular, 
who has improved upon the thought of our Chorus. He tell s 

P p z Nero 


Nero plainly, that whatever part of the flcies he chufcs to occupy 
will be readily yielded to him by the Gods; and that all nature 
will leave him the liberty of choice. He only implores this 
prince not to chufc one of the two poles, for fear of depriving Rome 
_ of his mild influence, but to place himfclf exaftly in the midft of 
the celeftial vault, which would othcrwife be in danger of finking 
under fuch a weight. 

- '** Tlbi nutoine ib omni 
. •« Gedctur, jtrtifquc tui-natura relinquet 

** Quis Deus efle velis, ubi regnum poncre mundi. 

** Sed nequc in Arftoo fedem tibi legeris orbe^ 

** Ncc polus adverfi calidus qui vergitur auftri, 

•* Unde tuam videas obliqux> fidcre Romam- 

** iEtheris immenfi partem fi prefleris unam 

" Sentiet axis onus. l4ibratL pondera cceli 

" Orbe tene medio.'* 
* ^The Chorus . of Etolian^irgkis finifh their interlude with a pray* 
• er to Jupiter, that he will not permit any more monfters to ap- 
pear upon eardi, fince Alcides is dead ; or rather that he. will give ~ 
him a iucceffor: needlefs petition! Lucretius ingenioufly proves 
5the inutility of the boafted heroifm of thefc great mem He runs 
over thus the other expeditions of Hercules, a;nd enumerates tkenr^ 
all in a few lines. 

*' Quid Nemeams enkn nobis nunc m^g^uis hiatus 
*^ Ille Leqnis obeiTet, & horrens Arcadi^s fus — 
'^ Si rion vifta forent, quid tandemi viva noccreilt ? 
"Nil, utopinor; ita ad fatiatem terra ierarum 
"" Nunc etiam fentit. 
^* At nifi purgatum eft pe<9rus, quae pr^elia nobis, &c.'* 

But to return to Seneca. The death of Hercules is declared by 
a loud peal of thunder. 

A C T V. 

Philo(3:etes comes to relate the manner of his d^ath, and a confi-? 
dant prefents herfelf to hear it: this furelyis not in the true fpir^ 
of the drama. It was not neceflary to iatisfy the curiofity of & 
fervant; a recital of fuch in^ortance ihbuld hitve been made tor 
fome perfon interefted in the adtion/ He would have done better 
to have imitated the Greek poets^ and have addreffed his diicourfe 
to the Chorus, who reprefent the people. Thefe are faults whicJat 
the commoneft underftanding perceives without knowing thea^ 
or being able to underftand them; and they 4)erceiv« them be- 


H'£RCUrE& OM MOUNT OBTili if^ 

<$att{e ^ re(!ital thus infjudicioafly'direfted makes no imprefliofi 
ilpi^n^thMi^'diid dity* stefkult^ wkic& ought to be moft caifeftd^ 
avoided^ and upon which the poet fhould have confulted his fer-^* 
'vant-^iiMii49'dS Malhtrile'dii^^^ / 
' This narratioh of Philodtetes is as fliockif^ as the reft^ which^ 
i§ faying all. Through an affedtatioh cf exalting Hercules, the po« 
et has made a giant, which dwindles into a dwarf. This is the 
necefiigiy- cbiiife^^ ideas; they become pu* 

erile by being fupefnatural, Rotfou has ran headlong into the 
fame error. I fay headlong, becaufe he has copied his model ex- 
a<5tly, and never v^es from it, but in fbme paffagcs whofe the fi-^ 
dicule appeared to him to be too originaL The fcene in Seneca 
begins thos; 

• NuTRix. " EfFare c'afuis, javenis, Herculeos precor, 
** Vultuque quonam talerit Alcides necem. 
Philoct* " Quo nemo vitam« 
NuTRix. *^ Laetus adebne ultimos invafit igitfcs ; 
'Philoct. " Effe jam flammas niliil oftendit ilte, &c.^ 

And in Rotrou : 

LvsciNPE, '* Toi qui f^ws de quel cBil il vit bomer fes jours» 
" Fais moi de ce tr^as le tragique difcours» 
" Quelle fut fa vertu I 

Philoct. ** La mort lui parut telle* 

" Que la vie 4 nos yeux ne fut jarilais, fi belle. 

LusciNDE. ** Dieux! & quel lui parut ce braiier devorant? 

Philoct. ** Ce que te paroitroit un bVafier odorant, &c.*' 

The Latin poet fays morej for he will hftve it, that Alcides hadf ' 
' fubdued this fire j and that he placed this element among the num- 
ber of his trophies. But it- is quite another thing when we come • 
to particulars: the whole fbfdl of Oeta is overthrown. He ftops 
to defcribe every tree } how each fell under the ftroke j how an 
oak in particular long refitted the ax; how> 

** Les arbres depouill& de leurs feuillages verds 
** Se yirent bien plus nuds qu'au milieu des Hyvers. 
•And how, 

** Le plus petit oif^ap ne pent od fe percher, 
^ Et toute la fbr^t ne devient qu'un bucher/' 



S&int Amand was not more abiiird when hcoiakes the filh look 
through windows^ to behold the paflage of die ITraelites over die 
Red Sea. 

The whole foreft then i8 cut down to forai a funeral pik„ ftUl 
too /hiall for Hercules : the hero aicends it» *^ But with fuch an 
<' air^ diat be feems rather to be mounting to heaven than upon a 
•^ funeral pile." 

*' This enormous heap of timber bends beneath his weight.** 

** OmneSy fregit impofitus trabes." 

He gives his arrows to Philo£tetes^ and intreats hiflfto-fet fire 
to the pile; upon which^ he had fpread the ikin of die Nemoaou 
Iion» and his club : this club is the only weapon which he doea. 
not bequeath to his friend, becaufe it would be ufdefs to him ; 
none but Alcides could wield it. Alcmena, who certainly in the 
judgment of the wife Sophocles, is too often prefent, plays the de* 
ipairing mother. Her ion is obliged to tnoKC a ipeech to console 
her, and hinder her from 

*' D'6tcr i cctte mort la quality de befle." 

But after this laft duty to his mother,, die hero aflumes the air 
of a conqueror. No warrior in his triumphal car. was ever more 
haughty than he afFeds to appear upon his funeral pile : he infufes 
into his mother and all who are prefent part of that courage and 
no^le confidence which animates his own breafl Their tears 
ccafc to flow; they imagine they behold Jupiter himfclf: he raifes 
his ferene eyes to heaven, and pronounces a prayer, which is the 
laft part of his funeral eulogium. For he afferts that Jupiter can* 
not avoid making him a God : fo many glorious a&ions performed 
by him, will force him, however relu<^nt, to beftow this reward 
on him, he merits it for his laft exploit particularly, which is a 
ftriking victory over fire, the moft terrible of the elements. At. 
that .inftant' Alcides encourages Philodetes tp draw near with his 
torch: he blames his flownefs : his friend with eyes averted, obeys 
him trembling. <' The pile takes fire ; but one might fay, that 
'^ the very flames venerate the hero; he is obliged to meet them, 
'^ and the fire utters a groan as it approaches him." 

^* TantOm ingemifcit ignis ad durum jecur/' 



It cannot be doubted^ whatever certain critics may &y to the 
. contrary) but tki$ piece is the prodo^on of him whq wrote Thy*^ 
efleSy where the nre groans in the very fame manner; 

** Stridet in verubus jecur : 
*** Ncc faCil^ dicam^ corpora an flammaB miagiS 
** Gemucrc. Picciis ignis in fuiilos abit, 
*^ Et ipfe fumus triftis, ac nebuli gravis 
" Non reftas 6xit, Sec."* 

This thought is even carried farther in the Hercules upm Mount 
■ "Oetai for befides that^ the bafon groans in which Atreus places 
. the xhahgled limbs of Thyeftes^ and the fire laments; even the 
* jfmqak exprdOes grief, and does not mount up dire6tly« Perhaps 
it would not be very difficult to.prove by many fuch companions, 
that the ten tragedies attributed to Seneca are really the produc- 
tions of the fame genius; but this criticifm would lead us too farr 
and it is of no coniequence to our prefent purpofe. It is fu^cient 
therefore to obferve, that the reft of PhiloiStetes's narration is in the 
fametafte, and more extravagant ftill than any thing in the Medea, 
Hippolitus, Oedipus, and the Troade, whicn iare all indifputably 
given either to Seneca the philoibphdr, or his kinfhian. 

Hercules, although burning, would difdain to move, were it 
not to animate his mother and the reft of the ipedtators. '^ Scarce 
«< can they imagine he is confuming in the flames: he haftens not 
^' his death, he enjoys his torments, and he fatiates himfelf with 
*< them by little and little : he plunges his face in the flames with- 
♦' out cloung his eyes/' 

Alcmena comes to interrupt, or rather to finifli this recital by 
lier tears ; ihe holds in her hand the um which contains the aflies 
t>f her (on. This obje£t raifes new ideas, more fhocking than any 
^we have flfientioned ; we may judge of them by this beginning : 

''^Behold this, urn ye Gods, and tremble left you alfofhould be 
^* the vidims ^f deathj this narrow urn contains the mighty Her- 

This icene is very long, atid vcty unaffc<fling, although entirely 
^deftined to grief. The reafonof this is, that the poet has npt ob* 
ierved that precept of Horace. 

*' Si vis me fletc, dolendum eft 


^♦0 .ff.^iflClfl/ES ON MOUNT OETKL 

However iUcmcna feiesns to WMp» or raiter ^tbc |Kiet 4lifigiit 
* ihe fliould; but her tears inftead of refembliii^ Aurora's, are, if l 
be allowed the enmiiion, nothii^ but diftilled aidber. Enough 
has been feen of this kind of long dmwn thoi^hts; the reft would 
be tedious like the piece itielf. But to conclude; Hf rpulas, ;iow 
deified appears in the ak« and forbids his friends to profane his 
glorious deftiny, by unworthy tears. Alcmena can (carcehelieve her 
eyes ; at length ihe and the Chorus reibly^ to credit the ^po* 
tneofis. We have dwelt the longer upon this piece, becaufe it 
ieemed (^importance to make the Mader acc|uaiiitGd with fht ge- 
nius of that age, in which die Seoecar imd their copieni were die 
reigning tafte. By this contraft between the Ooeeks and Lattnst^ 
die ftrength and weakness of dicir ieverad ages wiU be better 
derftood, and in what our theatre kas bommpd fromiiotfa* 




ONE may fay of this piece, that it is the fecond edition of Se- 
neca s revived, cori:e<3:ed, and enlarged. Rotrout vvrho ad- 
mired, and vrho underftood the Greek poets, has here had the 
misfortune to be feduced bv the appareqt pomp of Seneca's trage- 
dies, and in the choice of a model to prefer him to Sophocles. 
This ariies from his not diilinguifhing any more than Corneille ^- 
tients from ancients ; nor that which has had the ftamp of univer* 
fal approbation fet upon it, in thoie antients which poflerity has 
agreed to reverence* 

A C T I. 

He opens the fcene by introducing Hercules, who praifes him- 
fclf as extravagantly as he does in the Latin poet, which Rotrou 
was fo fond of tranflating. As for the unity of place, we muft 
not expcA tp find it exadtly obferved in Rotrou. However, he 
fuppofes Hercules to be at Trachine, and great part of the adlion 
pafTes in the palace. 

Dcjanira, who fulpedls her hufband's paflion for lole, comes to 
demand an explanation of him: he endeavours in vain to conceal 
the truth from her. She is too well informed to be the dupe of his 
artifice ; fhe preferves her fulpicions, and meditates her revenge 
with equal jealoufy, but much lefs rage than in the Latin poet. 
The French poet has thought proper to cut the long ' fcenes in 
pieces, and fcatters the fragments over his tragedy, hy which 

Vol. IL .0^^ means 


means he makes his afts pompous. I defire the reader to attend' 
clolely to all thefe terms ; this is the only artifice of many poets, 
and the queftion is, whether this is natural, nature being the true 
rule of compofition. 

Dejanira retires, and Hercules appears again with his lole, who 
is working tapeftry in another aparment of the palace. This is a 
fcene of gallantry, which gives us no great idea of Hercules, and 
which makes us expedt mighty things from lole; but the fpec- 
tator is deceived in both. For this Hercules, abandoned to a paf- 
fion which diflionours him, and which it would have- bean better 
to have thrown into a narration, becomes at laft the real Alcides : 
. whereas lole, at firft fo prudent and generous, who reproaches 
Hercules with facrificing Oechalia to a criminal love, plays nothing 
near fo fine a part in the fequel : fhe is but a fubordinate charac- 
ter, and introduced merely to authorife the jealoufy of Dejanira. . 
Sophocles, and even Seneca fhew her but jufl: enough to produce 
this cff^&. 

The queen enters and furprifes Mars with Venus, as flie herfelf 
fays. Hercules has nothing to offer in his defence: his pafSon is 
difcovered ; therefore he has recourfe to weak excufes, which only 
ferve to increafe his confufion ; and he makes almofl as bad- a 
figure In the prefence of his wife as he did before in that of Kris 
miftrefs. Alcides, thus harfhly treated by both, infults Dejanira's 
grief, and threatens lole with the death of Areas, a young prince 
whom (he loved, and to whom fhe was deflined by her parents 
before the ruin of her country. Such is the firft adb^ wherein it is 
cafy to difcem what Rotrou has added to Seneca, in order to ac- 
commodate his piece to the tafle of a French* audience. 



Lucinda, Dejanira's confidant begins the fecond a<9E here, as in 
Seneca ; that is, by preparing the fpedtators for the fight of this 
rincefs in her rage. Accordingly Dejanira appears fuch as fhe 
as been defcribed, and fuch as Seneca has painted her, with all 
the horrors of jealous fury j which however terminate in nothing 
more than in tinging a robe with the blood of NefTus. This fcene 
is a very literal tranflation of the Latin one, with all its faults. 
But the great buflle Dejanira makes here would fcem to threaten 
fomething worfe than a fimple philtre; yet it is in making one that 



H E R C U L E -S D Y I N G; 299 

all this affed^ed defpair ends in, and it is but by chance that (he re- ^ 
members it after having refilled the offer of a magician. She fuf- 
petSts this fort of charms : 

** He quel charme aflez fort 
*' Pourroit fur fon efprit faire un utile effort?" 

She had faid even more than this before ; how happens it then, 
jthat all on a fudden, fhe has recourfe to a philtre, which (he had 
defpifcd, which (he had never made trial of, and yet expedts it will 
fuccced ? 

lole prefents herfelf very unfeafonably before Dejanira : (he fo- 
licits her to put her to death, that fhe may be freed from the im- 
portunity of Hercules. 

** Vous-meme portez lui ce cceur qu'il me demande/' 

Dejanira, who believes this difcourfe to be only an artful veil to 
conceal the infidelity of Alcides, and his intelligence with lole, 
treats her very harfhly ; and does not fpare even the terms in/a-- 
ffjous, impudent, 2ind Jhamelefs: words of reproach which were 
fafhionable in the lafl age; but, which the politenefs of ours has 
banilhed; fubftituting in their ftead, thefe fofter ones: barbarian, 
cruel, perfidious, and the like- What then would Homer fay, 
if he was to revive in the different times of our language ? 

lole, thus perfecuted on every fide, abandons herfelf to defpair ; 
but her fears are more for Areas than herfelf. Death has nothing 
in it terrible to her. That inftant Areas appears at the gate of 
. his prifon in which Hercules had confined him, and fays to lole : 

" Quelle heureufe nouvelle 
** Rccevrai-je aujourd'hui d'une bouche fi belle ? 
^* Que vient-elle annoncer au malheureux Areas? 
** loLE. Lamorf. 

^* Arcas. Et qui fera Tauteur de mon tr^pas ! 
<* loLE. Moi-meme." 

lole explains this enigma, and informs her lover that Hercules is 
determined either to feparate them, or to take their lives ; but at 
the fame time (he vows to him fo conftant a faith, that they will 
both, fhe fays, blefs their death and their murderer. 

Q q 2 ACT 



In this z<Gt the fccnc fliifts from the prifon of Areas to a tern-, 
pie, where Hercules with Philoftetes offers a facrifice to Jupiter, 
m gratitude for the conqueft of Oechalia and lole. His whole 
train proftrate themfclves before the altar, and the hero pro- 
nounces a very noble prayer for the peace and happinefs of the 
univerfe. It concludes thus: 

" Qu^une ^ernelle paix regne enter les mortels ! 
" Qu^on ne verfe du fang que deflus les autels ! 
^ " Que la mer foit fans flots ! que jamais vent n'excite 
*' Contre Tart des Nochers le courroux d'Amphi trite ? 
'^ Et que la foudre enfin demeure aprcs mes faits 
•* Dans les mains de mon pere un inutile faix ! 

In this facred ceremony, Alcides appears dreft with extraordi- 
nary magnificence. Hp wears the veftment that Dejanira has 
tinged with the infectious blood of the Centaur. The effedl is. &> 
inftantaneous, that Hercules flarting up, cries out, 

" Miis qu'elle prompte flamme en mes vcines s'allumc ? 
** Quelle foudaine ardeur jufqu'ax os me confiime ? 
** Quel poifbn communique a ce linge fatal 
•* La vertu qui me brflle ? O tourment fans egal I 
" Ouvre, enfer, a mes cris tes cavemes profondes,.^ 
** Prete contre ce feu le fecours de tes ondcs. 
^ *i Souffre Alcide la has, non pas comme autre foi^ 
" Pour d^farmer la parque, & rui'ner les loix; 
" Mais Alcide fouffrant d'in fupportables peincs y 
*' Et qui porte deja les enfets dans fes yeiues." 

Lydhas> being aflied from whom he received this robe, anfwers, 
that it was from the queen -, upon which Hercules grafps his ckib^ 
purfues this unfortunate domcftic off the ftage, and kills him. 

This is the beginning of Alcides's madnefs, whith make up- all 
the remaining part of the play. Seneca has furnifhed Rotrou 
with fufficient to ftrew throughout three whole ads. 

Hercules returns, and makes a fcene truly fine, by the dignity 
which the poet has given it, after having correded the fwelling 
pomp of the Latin, of which he only prcferves the fiibftance. It 
concludes with his vowing vengeance upon Dejanira ; but while 
he goes in.fearch of her^ &e enters on the other fide of the ftage, 



to impart to her confidant her fears on occafion of the prodigy (he 
had fo lately fccn, and which had been already mentioned ; namely, 
that the Centaur's blood when expofed to die air, became a (de- 
vouring fire. Agis, one of Herculcs's confidants meets the queen, 
and holds the fame difcourfe with her as Hyllus does with his 
mother in Seneca. He advifes her to make her efcape, and in- 
forms her of what had happened to Hercules, in the fame manner 
as in the Latin poet: only that Agis always holds the place of 
Hyllus; for Rotrou has endeavoured to avoid the perplexity of 
putting the fon in oppofition to the mother, in fuch a fituation, 
Dejanira,. although innocent, is torn with remorfe: flierefolves to 
kill herfelf; her fenfes are difordered, and flie fancies the whole 
mniverfe is armed againft her* 

'" Ah, je d^couvre enfin Tappareil de ma perte, 
*' D'affreufes legions la campagne eft couverte : 
*' Le jufte bras du Ciel fur ma tete defcend, 
" Les enfers vont s'ouvrir, & la terre fe fend. 

This whole fcene js full of fire, and has in it many ftriking paf^ 


Hercules appears again without being able to find Dejanira, yet 
this was no difficult matter ; but it is necefTary that this princefs 
ftiould kill herfelf; and that Hercules, difappointed in his vengeance^, 
fhould difplay upon the ftage thofe fentiments which he borrows 
from Seneca. Rotrou has fpoiled none of thofe paflages 3 he has 
even foftened them; but Philodetes, who always attends him, is 
as ufelcfs a perfon as Agis. Their bufinefs is only to be confidants 
and fpedators of whatpafles. In this fcene, of which we have al- 
ready given fome extradls, the hero recounts his great exploits, 
his tormer ftrength, and his preferit torments: it confifts of pom- 
pous exclamations ^d pafiionate complaints, of which the genius of 
Sophocles is the ficft author. - 

The French poet copies Seneca in introducing Alcmena ; but 
this princefs, alike ina^ive in both, only comes to increafe by her 
prefence the groans of her fon Hercules, and to furnifli hinr with 
new thoughts by her frequent interruptions. This fcene, as in 
the Latin tragedy, is heightened by the wild tranfports and the 
fainting of Alcides, who afterwards retires only to plunge him- 
felf a fccond time in the river; and that Agis may have an oppor- 


tunity of relating the death of Dejanira to Alcmena. Rotrou has 
judicioufly difmiflcd his hero before this recital was made: for if 
he had heard it, he would have known his deftiny. 

Hercules returns without bein^ relieved by the waters of Peneus- 
and without meeting Dejanira^ whom he fought. Ho fuppofes 
that {he conceals herfelf from his rage in fome unknown afylum. 
The fpedlator, without knowing it, enters into all thefe pretences; 
and it muft be coafefled that the inchantment of tragic a<5tion ferves 
often to hide this fort of defeats which have been introduced into 
the French theatre. Alcides is now informed that Dejanira has 
killed herfelf; that her crime was not the efFe<9: of rage, but 
imprudence ; and laftly, that the robe he wore was poifoned with 
the Centaur's blood. Thefe laft words open the eyes of Hercules, 
\vho calls to mind the oracle he had received, as in Sophocles and 
Seneca ; fo that the fifth a£t is wholly made up of the death and 
apotheofis of the hero. In one article only Rotrou differs from Se- 
neca here : he perceived that the laft a<5l of the Latin tragedy was 
very deficient in adtion, and to fupply it he makes Hercules con- 
clude the fourth ad with this fpeech to Philodtetes^ to whom he 
bequeaths his arrows : 

** Toi, fidclc t^moin des conqu^tes d' Alcide, 

" Gloire de la valeur & du fang P^antide, 

** Re9ois ce dernier gage ; & te fers k ton tour 

*^ Des ces traits teints du fang qui me prive du jour,' 

" Mais, & reflbuviens-toi d'accomplir ma priere, 

" Pais fur le fein d*Arcas leur epreuve premiere. 

** II poffede le coeur d'une jeune beautc, 

** Dont trop indignement le mien fut rebutc» 

*' Que ta main de ces traits fur ma tombe I'immole, 

*« Et qu'il y rende Tame aux ycux meme d'lole. 

The revenge which he refolves to take upon ArCas is a loofe 
flone to fill up the vacuity of the following fcenes; but we fhall 
foon fee that this is a weak foundation of a very bad edifice; for 
firft, is not this revenge unworthy of the great Alcides fb near be- 
coming a Deity ? was it not enough that in the firft tranfports of 
a reje<fted paflion, he had even threatned lole with this facrifice ? 
but if he was refolved to execute it, why defer it fplong, and leave 
to another perfon the care of revenging after his death an idle love, 



which was no longer of any confequence ? This ftrokc has certainly 
nothing of heroifm in it. 


Philoftetes puts himfclf to the expence, as in Seneca, to relate' 
in a moft pompous manner the death of Hercules to a fervant. The 
hero, he fays, when he was upon the pile, reiterated the fentence 
he had pronounced againft Areas. 

Alcmena enters with an urn, and fays, 

** En ce vafc chctif tout Hercule eft: enclos : 
*' Jc puis en une main enfermer ce heros : 
** Ceci fut la terreur de la terre & de Tonde, 
*^ Et Je porte celui qui foutint tout le monde.*** 

But inftead of abandoning herfelf to a forced ftrain of lamention^ 
of which in Seneca there is no end, flie adopts thofe fentimentsof 
vengeance with which- her fon expired,, and requires Philodtetes to 
fulfil the laft commands of Hercules, by putting. Areas to death. 
Philodletes is fo fenfible of the meannefs of this revenge, that it is 
with great reludtance he refolves to obey : he juftifies Areas, he 
pities lole, but Alcmena is ihexorabl&i and Philodletes, in ipite of 
himfelf, is obliged to perform the office of an executioner. Areas 
is bound to the tomb of Hercules in the back part of the fcene; 
but lole prefenting her bofoni to Philodtetes's arrows, demands 
either Fife for her lover, or death for herfelf. Philoftetes is moved : 
but conftrained to be the minifl:er of Alcmena's rage, whom this 
delay irritates ftill more ; he prepares to pierce the heart gf Areas, 
when lole throwing herfelf before her lover, cries, 

** Traxtre, j'attens le coup que ta main lui prepare : 
" En ce fein innocent poufle ton trait vainqueur: 
** Tu frapperas Areas, puifqu*il eft dans mon cceur."' 

She aiks if fhe is brought to a favage country, where they gorge- 
themfelves with human blood, and why Alcides fought in the ia- 
fernal regions what he might have found in his own family.^ 

** Quel monftre plus fanglant, quel plus cruel Cerbere 
** Que fes propres parens, avoit-il k defaire ? 
" Que voit-on en ces lieux que des objets d'horrcur, 
** Et qu'y rclpirc-t'on que meurtre & que furcur ? 



She has but too much caufe for thefe inve6Uve$; and it cannot be 
conceived how Alcmena Should be cruel enough to iniifl: upon ha- 
ving the blood of an innocent prince (hed upon the tomb of her 
fon. lole, although inadive in the reft of the piece, plays a diftin- 
guifhed part here; but it is at the expence of Alcmena and Hercu- 
les. The fair captive unable either to move the hearts of her per-^ 
fecutors, or to fave Areas, draws a poniard from underneath her 
robe, and threatens to ft^b herfelf if her lover is facriiiced. She is 
difarmed, and the vidim is upon the point of being (laughtered, 
when a peal of thunder fta)rs the lifted arm of PhiloiSetes. The 
fkics open, and Hercules appears on a cloud. He beftows life and 
lole upon Areas ; he forbids them to mourn, for Alcides is now 
a God, and commands that altars ihould be erefted to him. This 
machine is as improper here as in Seneca, and the epifode of Areas 
renders it ftill more faulty. This is in a fenfe contrary to that of 
Horace : Dignus vindice nodus*. 

• Horat dc Art. Poet. 









Vol. n. R 


•^ T7 U R I P I D E S, fays Arlftotle, although not very exaft nor 
** Xl/ chaftizedin thefubjed: of his plays, has yet more of the tragic 
^* paffion than any other poet." Such is the charafter of this poet 
fummed up in a few words; and this is fufficient to bring to our 
remembrance what has been faid in the preliminary difcourfes. 
There is in the negligence of Euripides a kind of grace which 
may ballance the regularity of Sophocles. Without examining them 
too clofely, we /hall find certain errors in the former, which the 
latter carefully avoided; but we cannot chufc but pardon them in 
confideration of thofe two tragic paflions, pity and terror, with 
which the mind is agitated throughout all his pieces : that he at- 
tained to fuch a height of excellence in what is the true end of 
tragedy was owing to his having ftudied nature more than art ; and 
that in his compofitions he rather followed the emotions of his 
heart, than thefuggeftions of his wit. Therefore it is almoftim- 
poflible topreferve thefe beauties in a tranflation; for ftiould we 
fail to hit that foft languor, that delicate tendernefs, which make 
the foul of his ftile, we run the danger of making him appear flat 
and languiihing. In the fame manner Racine, tranflated into a 
foreign language, would bluih to fee himfdf fo much difguifed, and 
would refufe to acknowledge his own likenefs. Lively thoughts, 
a clofe nervous ftyle full of fire, may be rendered fuccefsfully in 
another tongue, but not thofe foft yet carelefs graces and a dlfFufive . 
ftyle fupported only by its beautiful fimplicitv. Euripides writ 
according to the fituation in which he found his own mind. Now 
he was naturally melancholy, philofophic, and an enemy to joy: 
his difpofition Icfs lively than tender, great fenfibility of heart, and 
his character, which is a little fretful and prone to lamentation, 
appears even in his writings. He had not indeed any great fub- 
je<fts for joy; and it is pretended that he found fome for unealinefs, 
in two women whom he, married fucceffively. Some alfo fay, 
that during a journey, he loft a wife whom he tenderly loved, two 
fons and a daughter : their deaths were occafioned by eating fbme 
bad champignons ; and that he compofed an epigram on this fub- 
je<a, of wnich this is the fenfe: '* Oh fun, who traverfeft the 
*' immenfe fpace of the heavens, never didft thou behold calamity 
*< like mine ! What ! a mother, two fons and a daughter torn from 
** me in one day !" In this ftyle fo fimple, fo pathetic, fo tender 

R' r 2 and 


and plaintive, it is eafy to know Euripides : he always paints him- 
felf. We fee him in thofe four plays which are entirely tranflated; 
and we (hall alio fee him in the fourteen following one^, which 
are delivered more at length than thofe of Sophocles. Tliofe 
pieces which could be tranflated are, and I flatter myfelf the reader 
will lofe nothing of the reft, that he will find again Euripides entire ; 
and that he wUl be pleafed with n^ following a method fome- 
times direct, fometimes indiredk, without which I may venture to 
aflfert that it would have been impofllble to have given the French 
a view of the Greek Theatre. 

If we would read the tragedies in the natural order, according to 
the date of the fubjedts, they muft ftand thus: 




The number of tragedies compofed by Euripides was feventy- 

five. The Cyclops is not mentioned here for reafons which have 

been given elfewhere. 

^ THE 



O F 



AFTER the taking of Troy, the Greeks withdrew into the 
Thracian Cherfonefus, where Polymcftor then reigned. They 
carried with them Hecuba, and the principal ladies of 
Troy, who were divided among them as captives. There as they" 
paid new funeral honours to Achilles, whole body was buried in 
the Phrygian fields, the (hade of this hero appeared unto them 
upon the empty tomb, which had been eredted to him, and decla- 
red to the aflembled Greeks, that if they hoped for a happy departure 
from the Cherfonefus, they muft give him Polyxena, the daughter 
of Hecuba and Priam, as a reward which was due to him, and which 
he had refervcd for himfelf. In a truce agreed to between the 
Trojans and the Greeks, "this young princefs had been promiied by 
Priam to Achilles ; and as her father was preparing to perform his 
engagement, Achilles w as flain by Paris and Deiphobus. Thp 
Greeks, determined to fatisfy the manes of the vanquisher of Troy, 
ftcrificed Polyxena to him, notwithrtanding the tears and intreatie$ 
of the unhappy mother; fo much the more unhappy as her fon 
Polydore had been treacheroully murdered a few days before, by 
Polymeftor. Before the laft misfo tunes of Troy, this child had 
been by Priam confided to the Thracian king, together with 
great trealiires, to ferve one day as a refource to his country and 
ruined family. When Ilion became a prey to the Greeks, Poly- 
meftor forgot his ancient ally, and avarice prevailed over his fideli^. 

310 HECUBA. 

He murdered the little prince, that he might fecurely enjoy his 


* Ill-fated Priam, when the Grecian powVs 

With a clofe fiege begirt the Dardan tow'rs. 

No more confiding in the ftrength of Troy, 

Sent to the Thracian prince the haplefs boy ; 

With mighty treafures to fupport him there. 

Removed from all the dangers of the war. 

This wretch, when Ilion*s better fortunes ceafc, 

Clos'd with the proud vidtorious arms of Greece; ^ 

Broke thro* all facred laws, and uncontroU'd 

Deftroyed his royal charge, to feize the gold. Pitt. 

The diftrefs of Hecuba, now become a captive and deprived of 

her children, with the revenge (he takes on Polymeftor form the 

* fubjedl of this tragedy. The perfons are, the Ghoft of Polydore, 

Hecuba, a Chorus of Trojan captives, Polyxena, Ulyffes, Talthi- 

bius, one of Hecuba s women, Agamemnon, and Polymeftor. 

A C T I. 

The (hade of Polydore rifes out of the earth, and (lands before 
the entrance of Hecuba's houfe, where the fcene is laid. What 
Ariftotle calls the prologue is fpoken by this Shade. It is nece(ra- 
ry to remember once for all, that Euripides in that cafe is lefs 
fcrupulous than Sophocles. The latter always found the fecret to 
make his fubjedt be underflood without (peaking to the fpeftators; 
but Euripides either knew not, or would not pra(5Uce this refine- 
ment of art. He thought that it would be eafier to concih'ate the 
attention of a numerous a(rembly, and that his fubjeds would be 
lefs perplexed and better underAood if they were expofed nakedly 
and without di(guife. This he has almoft always done, by means 
of his prologues, and for which he has been greatly commended by 
certain commentators, as a fine invention, A clear expofition of 
the fubjedt may be made confiftcnt with probability, without its 
being nece(rary to fay, ** I am Polydore, and you (hall fee fuch and 
** fuch things." Although we may alfo fay with Peipreaux of the 
perfon who firft fpeaks, 

" J'aimorois cncor mieux qu'il d^clinat fon nom, 

** Et dit, je fuis Orefte; ou bien Agamemnon, 

• Virgil. B. 3. V. 63. ■ 


HECUBA. 311 

^' Que d'aller par un tas de confufes merveilles 
** Sans rien dire i refprit etourdir les orcilles. 
" Lc fiyet n eft jamais afrez-t6t expliqui *." 

Here then it is Polydore, or rather his ghoft," who explains the 
fubjedt very minutely. He relates the manner in which Priam 
trufted him to the care of Polymeftor, with the treafutes as a refervc 
in cafe Troy (hould be vanquiflied. He unfolds the treachery and 
avarice of the Thracian king, who had caufed him to be murdered 
and thrown into the fea, three days before the arrival of Hecuba 
in Cherfonefus, He alfo mentions thefacrifice of Polyxena, which 
the fhade of Achilles exadted from the Greeks: in a word, he 
brings the whole dramatic aftion to that point where it is to begin, 
by declaring what precedes it. But what is more intolerable, he 
anticipates the principal events: at length he fees Hecuba appear, 
and he withdraws, crying, " Ah unfortunate mother, how diffc- 
" rent is thy fituation now to that which I have formerly fcen thee 
••in! Some God, the enemy of our houfe, has made thy miferies 
" equal to thy paft felicity." 

Hecuba no longer a queen but a pri(bner of war, alike leaden 
with years and affliiSions, caufes her women to condudt her to the 
palace of Polymeftor. •* Oh day! cries ftie. Oh night! what hor- 
rid dreams have 1 been tortured with ?" She means thofe which (he 
had had the preceding night, concerning her fon Polydore, and her 
daughter Polyxena. She relates the latter to the Trojan women 
who attend her. She dreamt (he faw a furious wolf which for- 
ced away a hind from her knees; and that the ghoft of Achilles 
appeared, and demanded one of the captive women as a prefent.. 
** Oh Gods! cries Ctxc, avert from my daughter this fatal prefage." 

One of the women of the Chorus, a captive as well as all the 
others, confirms but too well the truth of this dream. She informs 
the queen, that the Greeks had affembled to deliberate upon the 
demand made by Achilles; that Agamemnon, to whofe fliare Caf- 
fandra had fallen, refufed to comply with the unhuman requeft of 
Achilles : that the fons of Thefeus had acknowledged that there 
was a neceffity of offering a viftim to him, but that Caflandra 
and not Polyxena muftbe that vidim: others, fhe tells the queen 

Dcipreaax Art. Poet. ch. 3. 


3i« H E C U B A- 

were of opinion, that the (hade of Achilles ought to be fatlsfied 
without any reftridlion ; and that the army was divided in their 
fentiments till Ulyfles, by an artful infinuation, had turned the bal- 
lance for thofe who were for facrificing Polyxena, and was accord-- 
ingly coming to lead her to the altar. The Chorus advife Hecu- 
ba to implore Agamemnon and the Gods: this is all ihe can 
now do. 

The wretched queen here breaks into an extaiy of grief very 
difficult to reprefent : (he is a mother. This is the only good that 
fortune has left her^ and the Greeks would now deprive her of 
this only good which the Gods had fpared. She runs di(lra<ftedly 
from pjace to place : (he calls her daughter with loud cries. Polyx- 
ena hears her, and comes out of her apartment, which is fuppo(ed • 
to be near. Hecuba has not power to fpeak: (he is a momer in 
the laft excefs of defpair: a kind of painting in which Euripides 
excelled. At length the fatal truth efcapes her: ** The Greeks, 
" my daughter, have decreed thy death." Polyxena at this news 
is only concerned for her mother, and looks upon death as a trifle. 
This fcene is very (hort, and finely wrought up. 

A C T 11. 

Uly(res now arrives ; the occafion of his coming being fb well 
known, renders this fcene extremely interefting. He fuppo(es 
that Hecuba is already informed of what is required of her ; and 
therefore only barely exhorts her to fubmit patiently to her misfor- 
tune. After the firft expreflions of her grief, fuch as might be ex- 
pelled from a mother, Hecuba demands of Uly(res a moment^s con- 
verfation. " Thou remembereft, fays (he to him, the time when 
*• thou wert furprifed in Troy diiguifed like a fpy. Helen knew 
** thee and informed me of it, thy tears moved my compaffion, 
'* and I preferved thee from certain death ; a death which thou 
" hadft well deferved/' Uly (Tes acknowledges all this to be true; 

. like an able orator, he (eems to enter into the arguments of his ad- 
verfary only xo. urge his own more forcibly. Tnis is artfully ma- 
naged by the poet, who thus paints the well-known genius of U- 
lyfles. Hecuba concludes^ ** Since thou owneft this to be true, 
'* art thou not the moft ungrateful of all mortals ; thou who haft 
** condemned my daughter to death? why muft the tombs of the 

•** dead be bathed with blood, if vi<ftin»smuft needs be offered, to 
'* them ? It is Helen, and not my daughter who ought to bc.facri- 

. ■*.♦ iiced. Was not Helen the caufc of Achilles's death ? Hear me, 

*• adds 

HECUBA. 313 

'* adds (he, hear what require of thee; I have feen thee fuppliant 
*' at my feet j thou now beholdeft me a fuppliant in my turn. Thus 
** proftratc at thy kne?8, all the gratitude I require of thee is that 
'* favour which I firft beftgwed on thee. Do not, oh do not tear 
" my daughter from me! Alas ! has there not been blood enough 
^* fhed already ? Polyxena is my only treafure ; with her I lofe the 
*' remembrance of all my woes : fhe is to me inftead of Troy, of a 
" fcepter, of the fupport that I have loft. Suits it with conque- 
*' rors to abufe their vidlory ? Ah no ! the happy fhould not flatter 
*' thcmfelvcs that their good fortune will laft for ever. I was 
'* once happy, and what am I now ? one day has roblx:d me of all 
^^ my felicity. Oh prince have pity on my age! have pity on a 
" mother ! Go, go to the Greeks, ihew them how fhameful it is 
" to mafiacrc in the fandluary of an altar, thofe women whom 
*' their fury fpared even amidft the horror of battles. Are not 
" your laws regarding fandtuaries as facred for captives as for free 
** perfons ? Oh ipeak to them, prince ; thy rank will on this occa- 
" iion be more powerful ftill than thy eloquence." 

The Trojan women arc juftly atfedted with this fpeech; but 
I lyffeshas Icfs fenfibility. ^* Oh Hecuba ! replies he, liften to my 
"voice; let not thy rage poifon the innocency of my words: 
" doubt not but I am ready to fave thee, as thou naft faved me. I 
" glory in this acknowledgment of thy mercy ; neither will I dif- 
'* avow the advice I gave to the Greeks affembled in council. One 
** of our greateft heroes demands Polyxena : fhe muft be given him. 
"It is the reproach of ftates to fuffer the brave and the cowardly 
" to be confounded together by an equal diftribution of rewards. 
" Achilles, I acknowledge, merits to be diftinguiflied by us : he 
" fell like a hero for his country. How diflionourahle would it 
" be for us who have conquered through him, if we (hould forget 
" him after his death ? fay, what would be the confequence if 
^ we (hould have occafion to aflcmble Greece again for another 
** expedition ? what would our warriors fay, if they behold the 
" dead neglected? would they not prefer life to the inevitable pe- 
" rils of war? as for me, eafily contented while I live, I have no 
" other ambition but to have my aihes honoured." (A powerful 
motive with the Greeks : they alfo paid great regard to the laft 
requefts of the dying, or thofe whofe apparitions they fuppofed 
they faw-) " If thou complaineft, adds he, of a duty to theefo 
'< fatal, refledl that we have among us many women and aged men 
" as miferablc as thyfclf. Alas! how many Grecian hufbands are 

Vol. II. • S f " buried 


*' under the ruins of Troy ? Endeavour to fupport this calamity 
'* with fortitude; as for us, if we do ill to honour valour after 
•* deuth, weconfent that thou (houldeft blame us for our folly; 
*' but the Trojans are ignorant of what they owe to the memory 
/* of faithful friends and the illuftrious dead. It is the regard we 
" pay them that has rendered Greece flourifliing ; and the want of 
'• this difcernment has loaded thee with punifhments conformable 
*• to the injuftice of thy negleft." 

Hecuba finding her intreaties inefFedlual, turns towards Pciyx-- 
ena,who is prefent. " Oh my daughter ! fays (he, thou fceft him^ 
" he is unmoved by all my fupplications ; do thou try whether 
** thou haft more power than thy wretched mother. All that the 
" tendereft grief can infpire, employ tofave thy life; fall profllrate 
** at the feet of this inexorable prince; endeavour to touch' his 
** heart with pity. He is a father, urge that tender motive." 

Polyxena cafts a modeft but firm glance at Ulyflfes, and fpeafes 
to him thus : " I perceive, Ulyflcs, that thou concealeft thy hand, 
" thou turneft thy face from me;" (this was to hinder her from 
touching his hand or his chin according to the manner of fup- 
pliants) " thou dreadeft my fupplications, but difmifs thy fears, 
** from me thou fhalt hear neither fighs nor intreaties. I am ready 
*« to follow thee ; thou requireft my death, and death is my moft 
" ardent wifli. No, I will not wound my fame by a bafe fear of 
" death. Alas ! why fliould life be dear to me ? the daughter of 
" a king, and deftined for the bride of kings, formerly a queen, 
*' furrounded • with pomp and magnificence, and except in im- 
" mortality, equal to the Goddefles themfelves, but now your flave. 
" This title only makes death pleafing tome, referved perhaps to be 
*' the property of any cruel mafter who will deign to purchafe me: 
** the fifter of Hedtor fliall be debafed to the vileft employments 
" that are given to flaves." Here the poet enumerates thefe em- 
ployments ; fuch as drawing water, fpinning, making bread, and 
the like ; a detail, which if it makes us look upon paft ages with * 
pity, is however not to make us fuppofe that what the poet fays 
was impertinent. Polyxena goes on: "I who was. thought wor- 
" thy of akingformyhuftand muft become the purchafed wife of 
*' fome mean wretch. No no, I will die free, and carry with me 
'* to the (hades my fame unftained. Let us go, IJlyGcs, lead nie 
** to the altar, facrifice me ; there is no happinefs here for Polyx- 
^* ena. Ah, mother, feek hot by thy tears and intreaties to pre- 
«' ferve my life! fuffcr me to die rather than fee me expofed to ih- 

'' dig- 

H E c u B a; '2^s 

** dignities unworthy of my fex and rank: a mind inured to cala- 
•* mities may fupport them with fortitude; but oh what efforts 
** will it coft firft ? death is far better than life loaded with dif- 
" honour." 

The Chorus admire her courage and refolution. *' Alas ' replies 
** Hecuba, what endlefs grief will thele noble fentiments produce?*' 
Then turning to Ulyfles, " Oh prince ! adds fhe, if thou wouldft 
" offer an acceptable vidlim to the fon of Peleus, without loading 
". thyfelf with infamy, it is I, and not my daughter, that thou muit 
•* facrificc: lead Hecuba to his tomb, pierce this bofom with a 
^* thoufand wounds;, 'tis I who gave birth to Paris, by whom 
" Achilles was flain." 

Ulysses. It is Polyxena, and not thee, whom the fhade of 
Achilles demands. 

Hecuba. Well, join me to my daughter; thou wilt then have 
two vidims. 

Ulysses. It is too much to oflFer Polyxena without adding He- 
cuba to. the facrifice. Oh that both could be fpared ! 

Hecuba. Yes, we will die together ; thou flialt be forced to 
unite us in this fad facrifice. 
. Ulysses. Ha ! who will force me ? I know no mafler here. 

Hecuba. I, I will force thee : thus failer bound to my Polyxena 
than the ivy to the tree, I will never, never quit her. 

Ulysses. Oh, queen, be calm, liften to wifer counfels ! 

Hecuba. No, I will hear nothing more; I will not yield my 

Ulysses. Then I muft force her from thy arms. 
. PoLYXBNA. Oh hear me both! Ulyfles, do not aggravate the af- 
flidion of a wretched mother. O my mother, yield to our con- 
querors ! ipare thyfelf the indignity of beholding me dragged with 
violence to the altar. (In the original this is expreft ftill ftrpnger) 
Permit thy daughter to embrace thee for the lafl time ; and for 
the lad time to call thee by the fbft name of mother : Oh my mo- 
ther, I am going to the filent tomb! 

Hecuba. And I muft live a flave. 
. Polyxena. I (hall not behold that bridal day which I had fo 
much reafon to expert. 

Hecuba. Oh my wretched daughter! Oh far more wretched 

Polyxena. I go, never more to behold thee; baniflied fpr ever 
to the regions of the dead. 

S { 2 He- 

3i6 HECUBA. 

Hecvba. Ohl who will take from me thi$ miferable life? 

PoLYXENA. The daughter of a king, I die ailave. 

Hecuba. Thy mother will die fo too> after beholding all her 
numerous pofterity perifh*. 

PoLYx«NA. What ihall I fay from thee to thy fon Hedor, and 
to Priam, thy hufband? 

HtcuBA. Tell them my miferies have reached their utmoft 

Hecuba and Polyxena continue thus for a few moments the ex- 
preilion of .their mutual grief, fuch as nature herfelf dilates. Po* 
lyxena takes leave of her mother, and of her fifter Caflandra, and 
her brother Polydore, although the two latter are abfent. At the 
mention of Polydore, Hecuba, by a natural foreboding, fays, that 
fhe doubts whether he be ftill alive; and Polyxena endeavours to 
banifh this fear. It is not furprifing that Hecuba, although ihe 
had been three days in Thrace, fhould be ignorant of Polydore's 
fate. King Polymeftor is fuppofed abfent, and gone to the bor- 
ders of his kingdom; and Hecuba with gxeat probability thinks 
her fon is with him. At length Polyxena fays to Ulyfles, *' Con- 
"* dudt me hence and veil my head, (it was the cuftom to veil the 
** vidims) for I find the tears of a mother afFeft me too much. 
" Oh fun ! I may atleaft pronounce thy name, fince I fliall never 
*' more enjoy thy rays, except in that interval when I am between 
** the fword and the tomb of Achilles. Adieu.*' Hecuba perceives 
berfclf fainting; ftie calls her daughter; (he ftretches out her arms 
. to her, fhe makes fruitlefs efforts to retain her, and fwooning, falls 
into the arms of her women, while Ulyffes leads Polyxena off the 
Aage. It muft be confeffed there was great cruelty in thefe facri- 
fkcs ; but it ought at leaft to be attributed to the fituation the 
Greeks were in ; their fupefftition and policy rendered them ne- 
ceffary. This confideration only can juftify the part Ulyfles afts 

The Chorus exprefs their forrow as ufual, in Stanzas ; they 
turn upon the melancholy fervitudc which the Trojan ladies re- 
flected on with greater horror after Polyxena had been forced away. 
Thefe Stanzas are eloquent complaints arifing from that fympa- 
thy the unhappy feel at the fight of another's misfortune. Hecuba 
remains proltratc on the ground, abandoned to grief and defpair. 

♦ In the original it is^ My fifty children* 





Talthybius, an officer belonging to Agamemnon, comes to her 
from this monarch : he aiks the Chorus for her> and they (hew 
him where (he lies, almoft without motion, and wrapt up in her 
veil. Struck with the melancholy fight he cries, " Oh Ju- 
" piter! what are we to think of the Gods ? are mortals indeed 
** their care? have we not reafon to believe, that fatisfied with 
** their own happinefs, they abandon the reft to chance ? Sec 
" here a ftriking inftance : this queen of the wealthy Phrygians, this 
" wife of the once happy Priam ; her kingdom is deftroyed, and 
" herfelf reduced toflavery, loaded with years and forrows, deprived 
*• of her children, and proftrate in the duft T' Thefe are impiou8 
fentiments ; but that fyftem of fatality fpread among the people was 
the caufe of their fuffering fuch dikrourfe as the effect of a fud- 
den emotion, which the heart difavowcd. 

Hecuba is intreated to rife: fhe fupprefles her anguifh a moment 
to afk who it is that is come to infult her mifery? Talthybius tells 
her that he is fent to her by Agamemnon. ** Ah! cries Hecuba, 
" do they fend for me to facrifice me? let us go, I am ready, lead 
'^ me to the altar." "^No, replies the herald,5I am fent todcfire thou 
•* wilt pay the laft duties to thy daughter, who is already facrl- 
" ficed/' This horrid news plunges Hecuba again into an excefs 
of grief, ** Ah ! how were you able to facrifice her, barbarous as 
"you are?" yet (he infifts upon knowing the particulars of her 
death : particulars fo fhocking to the ears of a mother. I know 
hot whether this will appear natural to us, notwithftanding the de- 
licacy with which the poet manages it 5 for Hecuba fears that her 
daughter was not facrificed to the manes of Achilles, but to the 
policy and hatred of the Greeks. Talthybius therefore begins his 
recital like ^neas : " What thou requireft of me will open a new 
" fource of grief. This fatal fpedtacle has already coft me tears 
** enough ; muft I needs fhed more ? The whole army was aflcm- 
<* bled round Achilles's tomb, where the facrifice was to be per- 
** formed. *The fon of that hero took Polyxena's hand, and led 
** her up to the top of the tomb. I was near with feveral young 
*' Grecians who were chofen to hold the viftim. The fon of 
^^ Achilles took a golden cup and poured libations to the manes of 
«* his father : he made me a fign to bid the affembly obferve a 

• Neoptolemus. 

" holv 

3i8 HECUBA. 

•« holy filcncc; I obeyed, all ftood mute. Oh fon of Pcleus! cried 
** he, receive thefe facrcd libations which call the fouls of the dead 
'* from Pluto's gloomy kingdom. Come and fatiate thyfelf with 
'• the pure blood of this innocent victim, which I and the whole 
** army offer to thee. But oh, be favourable to us! releafe our 
^* veffels from this port, and give us a happy return to our native 
** country. He faid, and the whole army joined in his prayers. 
'* That inftant hegrafped thefacred knife, and ordered the Greeks 
*• who furrounded the viftim to feize her. Hold, oh Greeks ! faid 
" (he, ye who have laid waftc my country, know I die voluntarily : 
** let no one approach me, I will deliver myfelf to the fatal ftroke. 
*« In the name of the Gods I conjure you fuffer me to die free : I 
«* am a queen, and fhould blufh to appear in the infernal regions 
«* as a flave. Amazement feized the whole affembly i and Aga- 
«« memnon himfelf commanded them to let go their hold of Po- 
«• lyxena. She heard him ; and finding herfelf at liberty, fhe tore 
•* afide her robe, and baring her bofom, addreflcd thefe words to 
€* the fon of Achilles ; words capable of foftening rocks; Young 
«* prince behold my bofom, and my head, chufe where toftrike ; I 
<* am ready. The fon of Achilles aftonifhed, loft in grief and pity, 
<* kxttw not what to do : he turned his eyes from that affefting ob- 
<* jeA, he paufcd, he hefitated, he ftruck precipitately; a rivulet of 
4* blood flowed from the wound." 

" Elle tombe, & tombant range fes vetemens, 

** Dernier trait de pudeur en ces derniers momens." 

- Thefe two verfes of Fontaine, which exprefs the death of 
Thifte, are the moft faithful tranilation that can be given of thfe 
following paflagc^ of Euripides. Talthybius adds, that the whole 
aflcmbly, filled with admiration of Polyxena, and compaffion for 
her fate, began immediately- to eredt a pile for her, and to make in 
concert prefents for the funeral pomp. This circumftance feems 
to leffen the horror which had feized Hecuba at the relation of 
her daughter's death : Ihe even pronounces a moral ipeech upon 
thofe noble fentiments, which adverfity itfelf cannot banifli. Was 
** it to birth? foys flic; was it to education, that ftie owed thatele- 
** vated mind?" She afterwards perceives that ftie moralizes un- 
feafonably, and ftie is in the right : but the Greeks were excef- 
fively fond of moral fpeeches; they required them every where. 
♦* Go, fays Hecuba to Talthybius, and tell the Greeks to remove 
'* the croud frorii the body of the vidtim/' She alfo orders one of 

6 her 

H E C U B A. 319 

her women to bring water from the fea, to wafli the body of Po- 
lyjcena; and as the laft rites were of infinite coufequence among 
the ancients, flie confiders how flie may pay them to her daugh- 
ter with fome degree of decency; and where fhe ihall procure 
the reft of thofe funeral gifts, wnich, according to cuftom, were 
to be placed in the tomb. She refblves to intreat the Trojan la- 
dies, her companions in captivity, to give her fome of the gold, 
jewels, and rich habits which they had faved from the rapacious 
conquerors. This gives occafion for fome melancholy refledtions up- 
on her former opulence and her preftnt indigence ; but as fhe is in a 
humour for moralizing, fhe concludes that honours and riches are 
but vanity; and that they only are truly happy who are leafl: af- 
fedcd by the reverfes of fortune. The Chorus continue the mo- 
ral in three Stanzas. 


The woman who had been fcnt by Hecuba to the fca-fide re- 
turns to acquaint her with new misfortunes. Hecuba comes out 
of her apartment ; and the woman who brings a dead body veiled, 
as foon as fhe appears, calls her the mofl wretched of mortals. 
Hecuba fuppofes that the Greeks have fent her the body of Polyx- 
cna, and this miflake caufes a very interefting fufpenfion. Being 
told that it is not Polyxena, "Is it CafTandra then ?" fays the 
queen, **No,^' replies her woman; andinflantlydifcovering the body, 
Hecuba knows it to be that of her fon Polydore. Her grief no 
longer knows any bounds ; it rifes to madnefs. The meafure alio 
of the verfes is changed, and it is very probable that the remainder 
' of this fcene was partly fung, or ?it leafl accompanied with mufical 
inflruments, to animate the adbors ; as we find done in many parts 
of the Greek tragedies, where their fcenes when full of paffion 
are intermixed with Strophies, as well as the Interludes of each adt. 

The attendant tells her that fhe found the body of Polydore up- 
on the fea-fhorc, whither it had been cafl by the waves. Hecuba 
then remembers the dream fhe had had the preceding night; and 
no longer doubts but it is Polymeflor that murdered her fon, to pof- 
fefs the treafures of Troy. The Chorus take part in this fcene; 
but, upon the approach of Agamemnon, they are filent. 

This monarch comes to intreat Hecuba to bury Polyxena as foon 
as poffible. This duty belonged to the mother, or the nearefl rela- 
tion of tlie deceafed. Agamemnon turning afide, perceives the 
dead body, which by the habit, he knows to be a Trojan. Hecuba, 


320 HECUBA. 

at a little diftancc, deliberatea whether (he (hall caft her(elf al 
Agamemnon's feet, to conjure him to revenge her on Polymcftor: 
tho' fome remains of the haughty fpirit of a queen, together with 
the fear of being denied, occafions her irrefolution : but her eager 
delirc of vengeance, her tenderncfs for her child fo inhumanly maf* 
facred, and her confidence in the generoiity of a prince prevails, 
and (he proftrates herfelf at the feet of the king of Myccna» 
*' What is it thou requefteft ? fays he, liberty ? 'tis granted." *« No, 
" anfwers Hecuba, captivity will be welcome to me, although it 
•* fhould laft as long as my life, provided I am revenged: thou 
" feefl this body, it is my fon." Here (he relates the hiftory of 
Polydore, and the treachery of Polymeftor ; and the only favour (he 
implores of him is, that he will affift her in taking vengeance on 
this perfidious prince, who, to gratify his avarice, had violated the 
moft facred rights of hofpitality and friendfhip, Agamemnon 
feems irrefolute : " Thou wilt not grant my requeft, fays (he. Ah, 
<• unfortunate queen, thy fupplications are thrown away, and thy 
" vengeance is loft !*' She adds alfo one of thofe fentences of which 
the Greeks were fo fond; and which are fo carefully obferved by 
the commentators. " Alas ! why are we fo folicitous to cultivate 
'* fo many other arts, and yet negled: to ufe our utmoft endeavours 
*' to' acquire the art of obtaining what we wi(h by the force of 
•^ perfuafion ?'* It is true, that to this fentence, which is not in our 
tafte, Hecuba employs all that nature can fuggeft moft paflionate 
and moft tender, to move the heart of her conqueror. It is a cap- 
tive, once a queen, who implores his compaflion : a mother, whofe 
children have been murdered with impunity: it is againft a perfi- 
dious wretch that (he in treats the juftice of a generous enemy : men, 
Gods, and the pale carcafe which (he points to, idl folicit for her. 
Troy, yet fmoaking in ruins, rifes to her remembrance, as in Ra- 
cine's Andromache, who has borrowed thefc images/ and imita- 
ted this paiTage : 

*' Seigneur, voyez Tctat ou vous me reduifez j ^ 
" J'ai vu mon pere mort, & nos murs embrafcz. 
** J ai vu trancher les jours de ma famille entiere, 
*^ Et mon epoux fanglant traine fur la pouflierej 
*' Son fils feul avec moi referve pour le fers. 
•* Mais que no peut un fils ! &c/' 

This whole fcene of the French poet's is exaftly the fame with 
that of Euripides^ Hecuba and Andromache arc in the fame per- 

IJ E C U' B A^ 321 

plexityj in the fame melancholy fituatien : each with the fame 
ardour endeavours to move. the compaffion of their conquerors. He- 
cuba, .as a laft and moft painful effort, reminds Aganiemnon that 
Caffandra is his captive, and his wife. It is by this laft tender 
name, fo affe^fting to both the mother and daughter, that the queen 
endeavours to prevail upon himr. Her hands, her motions, her 
white hairs, the eloquent changes of her voice, all exprefs the. vio- 
lence of her grief. 

Agamemnon liftens to her in filence, and with the air of one 
who is irrefblute. Touched with a noble pity, he cannot refufe his 
aid againft the impious Polymneftor; but policy forbids him to 
grant it. He would not be thought to have facrificed Polymneftor 
to his paffion for Caffandra. -What will affembled Oreece fay of 
fuch a condudt ? Polymneftor is his ally ; Polydore was ranked 
among the number of his enemies. The army will not adopt 
the fentiments of a mother j and the interefts of both are very dif- 
ferent. In a word, he is unwilling to draw upon himfelf the in- 
dignation of the Greeks. ** Alas ! cries Hecuba, no one is free 
** if kings are not fo : mankind then are the flaves either of riches 
** or of rank. . Humanity is fuppreft through a vain regard to the 
'* iU judging multitude, or fantaftic Jaws !" ** Well, adds (he, if thou 
<* feareft nothing more than the cenfures of the Greeks^ I will de- 
•* liver thee from this fear : I will no longer intreat thee to af • 
** lift my vengeance: only keep my fecret; and, if during the ex- 
*« ecution of the fcheme I have formed, any dift^rbance ftiould 
" happen, ftop it in its courfe, without appearing to adl in my fa- 
*« vour. As for the reft, leave to me the care of revenging myfelf 
<* on Polymneftor." " Alas j ! and how wilt thou be able to rcvengct 
<* thyfelf ? fays Agamemnon." " By the hands of women, anfweri 
** die queen : only permit her (pointing to one among them) to 
" pafs fecurely through the camp." She then orders her immedi- 
ately to go to Polymneftor, and intreat him to come to her on an 
affair which concerns their mutual intereft. As for the funeral 
ceVemony, fti^ delays it till her vengean&e is completed. 

Agamemnon enters into her defigns; and withdrawing, temii-* 
nates the ad, which is followed by an Interlude^ fung by the Chorus: 
it turns upon the facking of Troy, and the captivity of the Trojan 
women. The Stanzas are admirable, but would lofe great part of 
their beauty by being feparated. 

Vol. II. Tt ACT 

3ftS H B C U B A« 

A C T V. 

PolymaeitoTi onoA the friend and ally of Priam, here alTames that' 
chara^er ^ain, upon a fuppofition that his crime is buried in the 
waves with Polydore. He (alutes Hecuba, laments her fate, and 
«xcuie^ himielf for not feeing her during the three days (he had 
been in his dominions » but affairs of ftate had kept him, he (aid, 
in a diftantpartof Thrace, and he came immediately to her upoa 
meeting her meflenger. The queen pretends to be ignorant of ^ 
his treachery. '^ I ought to blufh, faid fhe, to raife my eyes up to 
^^ thee, bqbg fuch as I now am, after what I have been." This 
ihame is natural enough ; but (he adds another motive for it, which 
cannot but appear ftrange to our age: it is, that a woman is not 
peroutted to look a man in the face. '^ What haft thou to fay to 
^^ me ?" fays the king. Hecuba gives him to underftand that (he 
has a fecret of importance to confide to him and his children like« 
wile. Polymneflor difbiifles his attendants, and declares to her 
that he is ready to perform every kind office for his unJfbrtunate 
friends. Hecuba begins by afking him if Polydore is alive. ^^ Yes, 
^* anfwers the peijured princes smd in this at leafl thou art not 
'* unfortunate." 

Hecuba* Does heflill remember his mother? 

PoLYi^NBSTOR. He would have come fecretly to vifit thee. 

Hecuba. ArCithe treafures fafe that were confided to diy care ? 

PoLTMNBSTOR. They are lodged fecjurely in my palace. 

Hecoba. Still coAtiaiyc to be the faithful guardian of them« 

The converiatioA goes on in this manner : Polymneflor, curious 
«» know the (ecret, would feed away his children. ** No, fays fie- 
^< Cuba, they nrntk, be prefent." She talks of other treafures, which 
Ihe fays are concealed under a black piece of tnarble in the ruins of 
Minerva's temfde at Troy, and which Folymnefhur's children ought 
ta b^e. informed of, in cafe their fajdder flmuld die. She alfb men- 
tkws feme gjold which fbe has faved in her flight; and which fhe 
was defirousfi^ committing to his care. Tims tempted. Poly nuietfkur 
enters the apjtftinent where the Trojan women were expeddnghim; 
and the queen, as fhe introduces him» fpeaks in this, ambiguous 
tnaon^r: ^ Enter, and do what is neceffary to Be done; after 
<f which, thou and thy children may return to the place where 
« thou hafl left my fon." 

The Chorus, who are acquainted with the fnare that is laiifor 
lung, impatien tlyexped the iiTueofit, which is notlongdelayed; for a 



Ikde time afterwards they hear him cry out^ '* Ah ihey are tearing 
^' out my eyes !*' In ^Itedk, aU the women throw t^m£elves xip6ti 
him with iciflbrsor needles, aod blind bims while Hecuba tnnrders 
the two children of her treacherous ally. Thi^ iDcidenc, which ^ 
not fccn, isexpreft in a very lively manner^ and in few words, part- 
ly by the Chorus, and partly by the voices which are heard bdhind 
the fcenes. Hecuba comes out, and at that inftant the palace- 
gates are thrown open, and the bodies of Poly^^npftor'^ chaldrenane 
ieen extended on the ground : he him&lf juns wildly about the 
ftage, hot knowing whene to 6ixc6k his fteps, and in vain purfiues 
the women who have deprived him of his fights He calls the 
Greeks, the Atrides, and the whole army to his aiCftance. Thefe 
are fituations which canpot be exprefled in our Alexandrian veries. 
The liberty the Greeks allowed tbemfelves of changing the vcrfi- 
fication rendered this kind of natural adions extremely ania)ated> 
and incapable of any tolerable tranflation. 

Agamenmon enters haftily upon Polymneftor's cries : be pretends 
to be aftonifhed at this noife, as if he was ignorant of the caufe. 
Polymneilor, whom he finds in the fame condition as Oedipus in 
Sophocles, fays to him* " Thou feeft' to what I am reduced; it is 
" Hecuba and her companions who have treated me thus/' Aga- 
memnon, continuing his diiSmulatipn, calls for Hecuba, who pre** 
fents herfelf with a fierce air, and triumphs i;n her vengeance. Po^ 
lymneftor attempts to ftrike her, an aftion which would fhock \js 
greatly, although cxprefl in a manner truly tragic. Agamemnon^ 
like a great monarch, whofe authority extends even over his alUes> 
reflrains his fury, and takes upon hinafelf the arbitration of fo extraor-- 
dinary a difpute : he iniifts upon hearing what arguments each 
has to urge, and of weighing them as a fovereign judge. Polym- 
neilor confents, and fpeaks firft. *^ Polydore, the laft pledge of 
^* Hecuba^s marriage, is the caufe of what has happened : when 
♦« Priam began to be apprehenfive of the fate of Troy, he confided 
" the child to my care, and I have put him to death. I own the 
" faft; but hear my rcafons, and then judge of the aftion : hb 
^< death was a fb-oke of policv alike advantageous to the Greeks 
^' and to XD€. I was afraid tnat this child would one day oollcft 
•' the fcattered remains of Troy ; that he would nufe anew tlut dan- 
" gerous kingdom from its afhes; and that the enragod GrccJks would 
" join in a fecond expedition, which might prove fatal to Thrape> 
** and at their return involve my dominions in the niin of another 
*< Troy raifed by me. Hecubawas JAferaied i>f the death of her fon,. 

y 1 a " iodl 

3^4 H E C U fi A. 

*' and drew me into this fnare, under the pretence of confidirig to 
«* me I know not what imaginary treafures. She prevailed upon 
** me to come with my children only into the moft diftant apart- 
^* ment in this palace; and fcarce was I feated, when I found my- 
** felf furrounded with a crowd of women, who, feeming to admire 
<^ the magnificence of my robes and my javelin, difarmed me; 
** others took my children, and with diffembled carefles, led them 
♦* away from me, when fuddenly the inhuman wretches drew 
** poniards from beneath their garments, and maflacred my chil- 
** dren before my eyes. Thofe who till then had continued to 
<* amufe me, feized my feet and hands, and others held me faft by 
** my hair to prevent me from fuccouring my children. Conftrained 
** to yield to numbers, I became myfelf the objedl of their barba- 
^* rous rage. They pierced my eyes with needles; and having thus 
«* deprived ihe of fight, fled immediately. I purfued them, and 
<• wild with grief and rage, I broke, I overthrew every thing that 
•^* oppofed me, but I could not reach them. It is for my attachment to 
•-* thy interefl and for having murdered thy enemy, that thefe mife- 
.*• rics,thefehorrors, have fallen upon me." Heconcludeswithcurfing 
all women, almofl in the fame manner as *Sganarelle. " Yes, cries 
** he, may all the imprecations that have or will bemade, fall on this 
^* fex; nor earth nor fea have ever produced any thing fo dcteft- 
" able." The ftrangeft part is, that the Chorus compofed of wo- 
meui treat this flight of a madman with ferioufnefs; faying that it 
would be unjuft to believe what his rage fuggefts againft all wo- 
men; and that if there are many wicked, there are alfo fome -vir- 
tuous. It is Euripides who fpeaks, a poet (as has been already 
obferved, and as we fliall find more and more) who in his works 
is as unfavourable to the fex as Racine his conftant imitator affedls 
to be polite. 

Hecuba begins her defence by a fentence upon eloquence ; fhe 
thinks it (hameful that men fhould make an art of it, to fervethe 
purpofes of injuftice and cruelty. Then turning towards Poly- 
neftor, " How haft thou the confidence, fays flie, to aflert that it 
'• was for the intereft of Agamemnon and the Greeks that thoii 
y^ murderedft my fon ? No no, the Greeks cannot have any real con- 
'* ncxion with barbarians : -f- But what favour doft thou hope for 

• • Moliere's School of hufbands, fcene the on to fomc breach of faith xoinmittcd by 
laft. ' ■ * the barbarians in alliance with the Greeks, 

. ~ fcThis. firoke^was doubtkft -an -allufi- • during the Pcloponnelhin war. 

. jz from 

HECUBA. 325 

•< from them? The ties of blood, or the defire of their alliance have 
** prevailed with thee to commit this crime, or perhaps thou fear- 
*« eft their vengeance. Alas ! whom doft thou think to,perfuade 
/« by fuch pretences? Confefs the truth; it was thy avarice that 
*« robbed me of my child: if it was Agamemnon's intereft thatdi- 
'* reded thy cruelty, why delay this facrifice fo long ? why didft 
" thou not murder Polydore ? or why rather didft thou not deliver 
*« him up to the Greeks,. while Troy ftill fubfifted, while Priam 
«* yet lived, and while the lance of Hedtor was ftill formidable ? 
" Had this been thy motive, wouldft thou have waited till Troy was 
^* reduced toafhes, beforethoudidftfacrificeachildentrufted to thee 
** upon the faithof hofpitality ? Let us remove the veil with which 
*« thou endeavoiireft to hide the foulnefs of thy crime. Thou art 
" the friend of the Greeks, thou fayft ! Well, be itfo, the gold then 
" which thou acknowledgeft does not belong thee, ought to be 
** diftributed amongft the Greeks, exhaufted with the tons of war, 
** and far from their native country: but thou, inftead of fharirigit 
** with them, haft kept it concealed in thy palace. How glorious 
" would it have been for thee to have reftored me my fon, pre- 
«* ferved by thy friendly cares, and at a time when real friends 
** are diftinguilhed by a fidelity independent of fortune ! If thou, 
*« in thy turn, fhouldfthave experienced adverfity, inPolydoce,made 
** happy by thy means, thou wouldft have found a fupport. He would 
** always have been a refource for thee; a treafurc more valuable 
** than thofe by which thou haft fufFered thyfelf to be fcduced. 
" Miferable wretch ! to what have they reduced thee? Thou art 
'* difappointed in thy hope of gaining the friendftiip of Agamem- 
** non ; and with the treasures which thou ufurpeft, thou haft loft 
** thy children and the light of day. As for thou, oh Agamemnon ! 
** if thou fupporteft Polymneftor, thou wilt fupport aguilty wretch 
"who has violated .public faith, and trampled upon the moft 
" facredlaws; and thou wilt be accounted a defender of crimes 
" and fuch as commit them." 

After a refledion made by the Chorus upon the force of truth, 
which is alone the finew of eloquence, Agamemnon fpeaks like a 
judge, and with great dignity decides againft Polymneftor, whofe 
artifice he has discovered. Thus the vengeance of Hecuba is au- 
thorifed, and guilt juftly puniflied. Polymneftor confounded, utters 
imprecations againft Hecuba and Agamemnon. To the former 
he foretels tKat fbe will be transformed into a mad bitch, and 
thrown into the fea : the fable juftifies this prediftion. To the 


326 HECUBA. 

latter, that Caflandra will be mordered by Cfytemne0xa ; and that 
his barbarous wife will not fpare even hixn. This prophecy was 
likewife fulfilled. The fuperftition of the 'ancients made them 
confider theie ibrt of curies pixmounced by the unhappy as fb many 
dreadful prefages; therefore Agamemnon, although he afieds 
to defpife them, cauies Polymneftor to be carried off, and confines 
him in adeiert iiland. Mean time, a favourable wind rifes; the 
fleet prepares to fail out of the port, and the tragedy con^ 

Erafinus has tranflated this piece, which he efteemed as one of 
the fineft compofed by Euripides, into Latin verfe; and Lodovico 
Dolce has tranflated it into Italian with fo great exadnefs, as even 
to imitate the different meafures of the verfcs in the original. As 
neither of them have made any alterations in it, we fliall (ay nothing 
more of their verfions here. The Italian edition was printed at 
Venice in the year 1 566. Neither is it neceffary to make any ob« 
fervations upon the duplicity of a&ion, which is vifible ; nor on 
tboie paffages which evidendy fhock our manners. The tragic 
ro^inent in this compofltion effaces all this in the minds of 
thofe who are not prejudiced againft the ancients; but I qiuch 
doubt whether it could Hipport itielf in a regular and entire traft- 




TTH E fubjcft is explained in the Prologue. The fcene is laid in 
•*■ Argos, in the vddibule of Agamemnon's palace. The pcr- 
fons of the drama are Eledra, a meifenger, Oreftes, Apollo, Hele* 
na, a Chorus of Grecian women^ a Phrygian, Tyndaras, Pylades, 
Hermione, and Menelaus. 

A C T I. 

Eledtra appears at the foot of a couch, where Oreftes lies afleep : 
Ihepaflcs through the feries of evils thathave fuccefiively overwhelm- 
ed thb houfe of Pelops : fhe goes back to the origin of theie 
miferies, and fums up thefe Uluftrious but unfortunate princes 
from Tantalus, who is at the head of them, down to Oreftes* 
Tantalus, in the infernal regions, is condemned to roll inceflantly 
an enormous ftone from the bottom of a hill to the top, Pelops 
cut in pieces, and his limbs ferved up to the Gods at a feaft, had 
his fhoulder eat by Ceres. Atreus and Thyeftis, his fons, made 
the fun ftart back with horror at the dire effeds of their quarrel. 
>Hgamemnon apd Menelaus, the fbns of Atreus, ieiemed to inherit 
their father's misfortunes- Marriage was the ruin of them both. 
The former was the huftiand and the vidtim of Clytcnmeflxa, who 
inhumanly maffacred him on his return from the Trojan expedi- 
dion ; and the latter unhappily faw himfelf united to Helen, thaf 
common fury of Troy and Greece. Oreftes, the ion of Agamem- 
non, killed his mother to revenge his father's death, and in obe- 
dience to the commands of Apollo. " Myfelf, continues Eledtra, 
«< was an accomplice in this crime, together with Pylades. The 



^* fad condition to which Orcftcs is reduced is the confequence of 
*' our fatal vengeance. Fixed to this bed of {brrows, he confumes 
*' away withremorfe and ftiame: he refufcs to take any nouriftx- 
" ment : the furies fcarce give him a monient's rcfpite ; and in every 
•* fliort interval of madnefs, he refigns himfelf to tears and lamenta- 
" tions. Thus hashe languiflied for fix days, fince the dreadful deed 
** was executed." The dramatic action therefore begins on the 
fcvcnth day after Clytemneftra-s deaths and to complete the mife- 
ries of Oreftes and Eledlra, it is on this day that they were to be 
judged by the Argives, who will doubtlefs condemn them to deatK 
as parricides. Ele<5lra*s only hope is in Menelaus, who was lately re- 
turned from the expedition againft Troy, and was expedled that 
dayatArgos. ** Menelaus, fays EleSra'has fcnt Helen before 
" him, but fecretly, and in the night, that (he might not be ften 
" by the Greeks, who would certainly have puniihed her for the 
•« calamities (he has brought upon Greece." Helen, we find^ is 
already in Argos, with her daughter Hermione. This is all which 
precedes the aftion. Euripides, in this prologue, has not anticipa- 
ted any of the events, as he has done in his tragedy of Hecuba : he' 
has only brought the audience to the point where they ought to 
be, in order to underftand the fubje<9: j therefore this fcene is ex- 
cufable, and may even be allowed to be beautiful. 

Helen makes the fecond. As fhe is juft arrived from Troy, (he is 
fuppofedto be partly ignorant of the misfortunes of Agamemnon 
and his family ; therefore (he begins her enquiry by afking Elec- 
tra how fhe and her brother had dared to lay their impious hands 
upon a mother? However fhe foftens their crime by attributing it 
to Apollo, by whofe oracles they had been influenced; and it is. 
for this reafon that fhe conceives herfelf permitted to fpeak to her 
niece, notwithflanding a fort of excommunication which both the 
brother and fifler had incurred, as has already been explained in 
the Eumenides of Efchylus. Helen weeps for Clytemneflra, as for a* 
fiflcr whom fhe tenderly loved. ** What anfwer wouldft thou have 
** rae make thee ? fays Eleftra; thou feeft the miferable condition 
" to which the family of Agamemnon is reduced. I who pafs the 
•* days and nights in tears, with this dear corps, (for can Orcfles 
"be faid to live, loaded as he is with woes) I cannot reproach him 
*' for what he has done. Oh happy Helen! happy Menelaus! 
V what riiiferable wretches areyou come to ?" Helen pities them, but 
with an artificial air ; and then xpakcs a requefl to Eledra, which is 
only a fnarc for hfen , It is to carry libations and an offering of her 


D R E S T li: S. 329 

to the tomb of Clytemneftra, Ele(5lra begs flie vviJI difpenfe 
with her from executing this commiflion, becaufe (he cannot quit 
her wretched brother for a moment : (he exhorts her ai^nt to car- 
ry thefe gifts hcrfelf to her fifter's tomb ; and, piqued at her requi« 
ring her to perform this ceremony to Clytemneftra, who had treated 
her fo cruelly, (he herfelf covertly rnortifies Helena, who durft not 
appear before the Argives* This is an artifice which the women 
^lay one upon another ; for Helena was not ignorant of the part 
Eledra had had in the murder of Clytemneftra. It was there- 
fore to reproach her that (he reque'fted her to go and offer libations 
at the tomb of a mother who had been her enemy* This fhort di* 
alogue, although natural enough, is yet beneath the dignity of 
tragedy. , 

Helena refolves to fend her daughter Hermione with the libati- 
ons fhe has prepared, and calls her for that purpofe: while flie is 
giving her directions, Eledlra obferves afide, that beauty is a perni- 
cious gift when it is riot joined with virtue. *' Behold this prin- 
•* cefs, fays fhe, her hair is cut off; but this is no difadvantage to 
** her: years have not impaired her charms, or changed her heart. 
** Unhappy Helen, by thee Oreftes and all Greece are rumed." 
Or perhaps, for the fenfc is equivocal, her words may be rendered 
thus : *' Helen maintains her chara(5ler; with what care has (he 
** cut off her hair, that fhe might not fpoil its beauty: years have 
«* not lefTened her vanity, &c/* 

The Chorus now arrive, compofed of a number of young Ar- 
oive virgins, who come to confole Eledtra. The princefs is afraid 
that they will waken Oreftes by their hacfty entrance; and there- 
fore bids them eagerly, but with great gentlenefSj to tread foftly. 
The virgins repeat the fame caution one to another, as they enter 
the apartment of the fick prince. This is repeated in fuch a man- 
ner, and played over fo often in different forms, that it gives the 
theatrical dialogue a fimplicity too near to folly. The Chorus en- 
quire in whifpers after the health of Oreftes : they pity the bro- 
ther and fifter. Eleftra enters into a converfation with them; 
and from time to time begs them to be filent, fo tender and anx- 
ious are her cares. Oreftes moves in his bed; the princefs chMes 
the Chorus for having difturbcd him : he fleeps again, and thev 
continue to converfe, and to lament the fad condition to which 
Oreftes is reduced. In a word, this fcene is nature itfelf: fuch as 
Euripides loved to reprefent on the theatre, and fuch as the Athe- 
nians required. 

Vol. II. tr u ■ The 

330 O- R E S T E S. 

The Chorus, furprifcd at Oreftes's flecping falqng and fo quietly^ 
begin to be apprenenlive that he is dead. Eledlra approaches 
his bed-fide: he awakes. " Oh fleep ! cries he, thou who fufpendeft 
^' my torments, and with thy gentle fetters bindcil up my fcnfes;; 
^ how feafbnably didil thou come to my relief. Sweet oblivion of ouc 
•* woes, ho'^v welcome art thou to the unhappy! Where am I now? 
•* and how have I been brought hither? In my frenzy I have lofl 
" all remembrance of it." 

Electra. My dear Oreftes, what joy has thy peaceful flumber 
given me ! fufFer me tofmooth thefe coverings, and to raife thy head. 

Oreftes accepts thefe little offices. He even intreats his fifter to 
wipe away the foam from his lips, and to remove the fcattered 
hairs that hang over his eye-lids: he difcovers all the uneafy reft- 
leflhcfs of a fick perfon ; and his filler fooths him in the fame maa- 
ner as Phcdra's confidant does her difordercd *miftrefs. That 
fcene we may remember is in the fame charafter with this. Elec- 
tra takes advantage of her brother's interval of reafon to inform 
him that Helen is arrived, and that Menelaus is foon exped:ed. 
Hereupon Oreftes rifes, and fays, ** Menelaus would be happier if 
" he had returned without her; ty bringing back his wife, he has 
** loaded himfelf with a heavy burthen." Here Euripides departs 
a little from the dignity of tragedy, as well as in many other fen* 
tencesagainft women; but this poet nwcr loft anyoccafion of in- 
troducing them. 

A moment afterwards Oreftes is feized with his ufual frenzy. 
** Ah, my dear brother, cries Eledra, thy eyes are inflamed! what 
** fudden fury feizes thee, after fo fliort an interval?" 

Okestes. -f- Oh mother! no longer, arm thefe daughters of hell 
againft me; hence with thefe horrid ferpents. Ah.l there they are; 
I lee them grinning round me. 


— ■ ■ ' 

* Hippolitusof£uripideSy Vol. U. Ad i. and poetical images have a difierent intend. 
Sc. 6. p. 149. Thedefign of a poetical image is furprize, 

f You cannot be igoorant, iays Longinus that of a rhetorical is perfpicuity. However, 
in his treatife on theSoblime, ScA* 15- tran- to move and flrike the imagination is a dc- 
(^tcd by theRev, Mr Smith, that rhetorical fign common to both.. 
Pity thy offspring, motjier, nor provoke 
Thofe vengefiil furies to torment thy fon. 
What horrid fights I how ^lare their bloody eyes !• 
How twilling fnakes curl round their venom'd heads! 
In deadly wrath the hifling monfters rife. 
Forward they ^ring, dart out, and leap around me*. 
And agaiD^ 

Alas l-^ihe^U kill mel-whither ihaU I fly I 



Electra. Oh hold! becalm my deareft brother; thou fccft 
none of thefe frightful fpedres which thou believeft thou feeft. 

Orestes. Oh great Apollo! thefe monfters, thefe gorgonsi 
thefe infernal prieftejOTes feek my life. 

Electra, holding him. I will not quit thee, and at leaft I fhall 
be able to prevent the confequences of thefe violent emotions. 

Orestes. Ah thou fury; leave me in quiet ! wouldft thou drag 
me to Tartarus ? 

Electra. Oh Gods! what can I do againft the Demon that tor- 
ments him ? 

Orestes. Bring me my bow and arrows, the precious gifts 
of Apollo, that I may deliver myfelf from thele fierce Eumenides, 
who will not fufFer me to reft one moment. 

Electra. Doft thou imagine that a mortal can wound Divinities? 

Orestes. Yes; I will pierce them inftantly, unlefs they leave 
me. Heardft thou the found of my arrows which cut the air ? doft 
thou behold them ? hence, hence ye gloomy Goddeffes, be gone, 
fly ; accufe Apollo only. Oh, my ftrength forfakes me ! I breathe 

The poet here adually faw the furies SDmetimes indeed he boldly aims at images 
with the eyes of his imagination, and has of different kinds. For tho' his genius was 
compelled his audience to fee what he be- not naturally great, yet in many inilances 
lield himfelf, Euripides therefore has la- he even forced it up to the true fpirit of 
boured very much in his tragedies to de- tragedy; and that he may always rife where 
icribe the two palHons of madnefs and love, his fubjed demands it (to borrow an allufion 
and has fucceeded much better in thefe, from the poet.) 
than (if I am not roiftaken) in any other. 

Laih'd by his tail his heavingHides incite 

His courage, and provoke himfelf for fight. ' 

The foregoing affertion is evident from that paffage, where Sol delivers the reins of 
his chariot to Phaeton : 

Drive on, but cautious fhun the Libyan air ; 
That hot unmoiflen'd region of the iky 
Will drop thy chariot. 
And a little after. 

Thence let the Pleiads point thy wary courfe. 
Thus fpoke the God. Th' impatient youth with hade 
Snatches the reins, and vaults into the feat. 
He flarts; the couriers, whom the lalhing whip 
Excites, outilrip the winds, and whirl the car 
High thro' the airy void. Behind, the fire, 
Bonie on his planetary fleed, purfues 
With eye intent, and warns him with his voice. 
Drive there !— now here ! — here ! turn the chariot here ! 
Who would not fay that the foul of the rider, that it fhared as well in danger, as fh 
poet mounted the chariot along with the rapidity of flight with the horfcs, Sec, 
• Toi qui dans enfers me veux precipitcr. 
Dccffe, celfe cnfin de me prefecuter, 

U u 2 with 


with pain. Wlicre am I going ? how came I out of this bed ? the 
ftorm at length is paft. Alas, Eleftra^^ thou wecpeft! thou veiled 
thy face. Oh my loved fifter ! why art thou aflbciated in my 
miferies ? why muft the frantic Oreftes give thee fo much difquiet? 
Ah, take not (6 great fhare in my calamities; but leave me to con- 
fume away with grief and rcmorfe ! It was I who committed the 
crime, thou wert only witnefs to it; but what do I fay? Apollo* 
only was to blame: he, by his feducing oracles, urged me to this 
guilt, and now he abandons me. Oh! if I had confulted the 
Ihade of my father, he would doubtlefs have difTuaded me from a 
deed ufelefs to him, and fo fatal to me. Hide not thy fice, my 
dear Eledtra; wipe away thy tears; whatever are our misfortunes,, 
do thou foften mine as I would thine, Thele mutual fervices be- 
come our friendfliip. But now retire, languifli no longer thus, 
without food ; at lead allow thyfelf a few moments fleep after fo 
many nights of watching and anxiety. Well may thy life be dear 
to me ; for alas ! what would become of me if I loft thee ? (houldft 
thou be feized with a ficknefs in confequence of thy inceiTant carer- 
of me, I am undone : thou art my fupport, every one elfe aban- 
dons me. 

Electra. Talk not of what I fufFer, my deareft brother; I will 
live and die with thee : fhould not I be wretched alfo if I loft thee? 
Alone, without relations, without friends, how could I endure life,, 
deprived of thee ? I will leave thee for a few moments, fince thout 
defireft it ; but I befeech thee remain ft ill upon this bed : recal 
thy reaibn, banifh thefe fatal ideas, and endeavour to relieve the. 
pains of the mind as we do thofe of the body: the former are in- 
deed the true difeafes of mankind. [S&e retires] 

Nature itfelf could not fuggeft expreflions more tender and de-- 
licate; The Chorus terminate the adt by Stanzas, conformable 
to the foregoing fcene : they implore the Furies to fpare an unhappy 
prince, and lament his misfortune with that Pindaric elevation 
which diftinguiflies the Greek Chorus in a manner not to. be ex- 
prefled. At length they perceive Menelaus with his train; and 
•they congratulate hin> upon his return. 


Menelaus confiders his return as unfortunate, and with reafon. 
He enters a palace where Agamemnon his brother had been maffa- 
cred by his wife. This frightful news he had been informed of 
during his voyage,, by Glaucus, the oracle of mariners. He had 




heard from a fifherman, the fate of Clytemncftra. He deiires to 
fee Oreftcs, whom he leftfo young he fays, that he does not ex- 
peft to know him again. 

The afflifted prince rifes from his bed, and throws himfelf at' 
the feet of Menelaus. He declares himfelf to be that Oreftes, that 
criminal who neverthelefs implores the protedlion of an uncle, and 
dares to hope for it. Menelaus ftarts back in ajftonifliment; he 
thinks he beholds a ghoft, fo greatly is this young prince disfigured 
by his grief and his calamities. Thefe he relates in an interrupted 
dialogue : he dwells particularly on his diftrefs in being abandoned 
by everyone, without fupport, and negledtcd even by Apollo, 
who had conftrainedhim to become a parricide; his excommuni- 
cation (if that term may be ufed) j the hatred of the Argives, who 
were determined to put him to death as a criminal ; the aflernbly 
which is to be held that very day in order to condemn him. He 
tells him that his father's enemies perfecute him through policy 
and a thirft of vengeance; and that the citizens have taken the 
precaution to furround the palace, to hinder him from efcapingthe 
puniftiment to which he is dejftined. " Thou art, adds he, my 
^* only refbirrce; fortune has been lavifli of her bleflings to 
^* thee, beftow fame of them upon thy unhappy friends : fhare in 
•* their affli<Slions ; and become a father to thofe who hold the 
*^ place of children to thee. 'Tis now, 'tis in adverfity, that true 
*• friendlhip ought to fliew itfelf.'* 

The Chorus give notice that Tyndarus appears in a mourning, 
habit: Tyndarus is the father of Cly temneftra. Oreftes trembles 
at his approach ; gratitude heightens his remorfe for the adlion he 
has committed. ** I owe everything to him, cries he; what Care- 
'* did he not take of me during my childhood ! what tenderncfs- 
^* have I not experienced from him and Leda! and oh what re- 
^' turn have I made them ! Where fhall I hide myfelf fr<nn his 
^* fight ? how can I meet his looks ?*' Tyndarus, who had been 
viiiting his daughter's' tomb, approaches. After the firft civili- 
ties between him and Menelaus, he perceives Oreftes. " That pa- 
♦' ricide, fays he, that ferpent fixes his poifonous looks upon me :' 
*' what, Menelaus, dareftrthou fpeakto a criminal fepara ted from the 
*♦ reft of mankind ?" He then makes a formal harangue, to accufe 
Oreftes. It favours a little of the old man; but the Greeks made 
their imitations of nature always exadb : our tafte is altered in thi^ 

7 Tyn- 


Tyndarus Joes not pretend to cxcufc the crime his daughter 
Clytemneftra has committed; on the contrary, he expreffes the 
utmoft abhorrence of it : ** But was it for Oreftes to revenge it ? 
♦* He ought to have had recourfe to the lav/s ; he ought to have 
*♦ banifhed his mother, and fubmitted her fentence to the judges: 
** but he has revenged one crime by another more impious ftill. 
^' Let us fuppofe, adds he, that a woman kills her hufband, and a 
" fon kills his mother, is the grand-fon to kill his father upon the 
*♦ fame principle of vengeance? When would the crime of blood- 
** flied have an end ? It is for this that our anceftors condemned 
*' to exile him who had committed an involuntary murder; other- 
*^ wife deftruclion would have been continued without end, by a 
♦* conftant fucceflion-of revenge/* 

Tyndarus, after this reafoning, thus pathetically addreffes him- 
felf to Oreftes: " How couldeft thou behold unmoved a fuppliant 
" mother adjuring thee by that bofom which thou hadft fucked ? 
" I who have not feen this adtion, weep at the bare idea of it." 
Tyndarus here fpeaks as the father of Clytemneftra ; and it is this 
fecret intereft which influences him to deliver up his grand-fon to 
death ; and to declare to Menelaus, that if he oppofes it, he will 
break off all friendftiip with him for even 

The fpeech of Oreftes is modeft, yet full of energy. Confufed 
at firft, he bends his eyes to the ground : he fears to anfwcr Tynda- 
rus, and to recal melancholy ideas to the remembrance of a father 
already too mifcrable. He refpedls his white hairs : he dares not 
give Clytemneftra the name of mother } he calls her the daughter 
of Tyndarus; but at length he juftifies himfelf by the fame fort of 
reafoning, as we have feen in the Furies of Efchylus. ** The father, 
** he fays, is properly the author of birth, not the mother; therefore 
*^ he thought himfelf obliged in duty^o his father to revenge his 
" murder by the death of her who had committed it : yet he ac- 
" knowledges that he has been guilty of a crime; but he would 
" have this crime confidered as neceflary, as inevitable, as one which 
** filial piety, as well as Apollo, commanded." " Thou wouldft have 
** the Argives ftone me, continues he; and for what ? for render- 
" ing an important fervice to all Greece. For fay, what miferable 
** times fhouJd we fee, if women (hould arrive at fuch a heighth 
*' of wickednefs, as to murder their hufbands, and yet hope to ef- 
*' cape unpuniftied, by exciting the compaflion of their children? 
'* Thus fecured from danger, they would make nothing of imbru- 
*' ing their hands in their huft>ands blood. My fuppofed crime has 



*< deprived them for ever of this refource. ^ And yet, who is it I 
•* have killed ? a perfidious wife, who having violated her nuptial 
•* faith, inftead of piercing her own bofom, made her huiband the 
** viftim of her adultery. If there are Furies who revenge my mo- 
•* ther's death upon me, would not others far more dreadful have 
" punilhed me for neglecting a murdered father?" Laftly Oreftes 
pleads the exprefs orders of Apollo. ** It is Apollo, fays he, whom 
** thou oughteft to judge and condemn; he only is guilty. Is not a 
•^ God fufficient to fecure me; and who will hereafter efcape death, 
*' if I cannot be fafe by fuch a protedtor ?" The Chorus, who, 
as ufual, Aide in their word here to exprefs the impreflion any dif- 
courfe makes Upon the a/Tembly, acknowledge that women are 
the caufe of many calamities ; but Tyndarus, inftead of being con- 
vinced by the arguments Oreftes urges, is but the more irritated, 
arid departs with his train, fully determined to animate the city 
and the judges againft Oreftes and his fifter. 

Menelaus endeavours to detain him, and fcems moved, or feigns 
to be fo ; for in his heart he is defirous of Oreftes's deathv that he 
may get pofTeffion of his crown and his dominions : but he goes 
, about in a covert and artful manner. Oreftes, who trembles to 
find that this only refource is likely to fail him, refumes his felici- 
tations. " Do for me, fays he to him, what my father has done 
** for thee. It was for thy quarrel that he engaged in the Trojan 
" war: he expofed his life in it during ten years: it is not ten 
*' years that I require of thee,, but a fingle day; and afew kind of- 
«^ fices in favour of the fon of thy brother arid benefaftor." This 
is the fenfc of his Ipeech to Menelaus, which he concludes by 
throwing himfelf at his feet. ** Imagine, fays he, that my 
^* cries have reached my father in the profound regions of Pluto's 
'^ kingdom ;. and that his ihade hovers about thee to join my hum- 
'^ ble fupplications."* 

The Chorus add their intreaties, and Menelaus anfwers at laft, 
but like an artful and politic prince. ** I am grieved fox thy mif^ 
*' fortunes, fays he, and I am willing to ferve thee. This i^ a du^- 
*' ty to which I am bound by our nearnefs in blood : I Would ferve 
** thee at the expencc of a battle, and even of my life : but how is 
*' it poffible? it is a favour I would implore of the Gods. I am 
** but lately delivered from a ruinous warj my army is exhaufted ; 
" I have fcarce any friends remaining in whom I can confide. How 
*' can I pretend to ufe force againft fuch a city as Argos ? I hope 
^ to prcfervc thee by gentle methods ; it would not be prudent to 


-^^36. ORESTES. 

" undertake an impofliWe conqueft. The rage of fcdition is more 
♦* difficult to be extinguiOied than a violent conflagration. If wc 
•* yield with caution and judgment to this rage, it may poffibly 
" abate, and then wc may feizc a favourable opportunity of gain- 
** ing over the multitude : for the blind many make a fwift tranfi- 
** tion from anger to pity; and a politic prince is capable of turn- 
♦* ing both thefepaffions to his own advantage, I will go there- 
*^ fore, and endeavour to foften Tyndarus and the people. The 
** people is a veflel that muft be fteered with caution. I have not 
'** yet attempted to move the Argives with intreaties and fupplica- 
" tions; but prudence requires that I fhould yield to time." 

Oreftes, through thefe ftudied excufes, penetrates into the dc- 
fign of his inhuman uncle, who abandons him in fiich an exigence. 
He gives him a look full of indignation, and fufFers him to depart 
without anfwering him any otherwife than by a bitter fcofF upon 
his weaknefs, which would not fuffer him to fight in any other 
caufe but a woman's ; and a reproach of his treachery, which fti- 
•fled in his heart every noble and generous fentiment. The defpair 
to which Oreftes is reduced by his uncle's cruel negledl is in fome 
meafurc mitigated by the appearance of a man very different from 
Menelaus : this is Pylades, who arrives unexpedledly. 

This fcencis an interrupted dialogue, where each of thefpeakers 
pronounces his verfe or his half verfe. Pylades, aftoniflied at 
what he had heard and fcen of the commotion among the people, 
and the fentence of death which was foon to be pronounted againft 
his friend, had flown with anxious hafle to fave him. Orefl:es in- 
forms him of the return and treachery of Menelaus. Pylades ad- 
vifes him to a fpeedy flight, but this is not pradlicable : the palace 
is furrounded with guards and fpies. Pylades is alfo in the fame 
unhappy fituation : he is banished by his father Strophius, for hav^* 
ing been an accomplice in the murder of Clytemnefl:ra. Orefles 
grieves that he has rendered his friend miferable. This thought 
makes him forget his own misfortunes. " Mine aflfedt me but lit- 
V tie, fays Pylades. Menelaus is not an example forme to follow." 

Oreftes difplays all the tender anxiety of friendfliip: he feems 
no longer to fear for himfelf, but only for Pylades. The latter 
comforts him ; and, after having weighed every thing, advifes him 
to defend his taufe himfelf before the afl^embly of the people. Py- 
lades undertakes to attend him, to fupport him, and guard him 
from all danger. "Alas! when fliould I fhew my friendfliip, 
** fays he, if not in fo delicate a conjundure ?" * Oreftes is dcfirous 

^ of 



of acquainting Eledlra with their delign : his friend difluades him 
from doing fo, left her tears and anxiety (hould prevail with him 
to lay afide an expedient which appeared to him the only one 
they could have recourfe to in their prefent fituation. Accordingly, 
the two friends depart together, intending to vifit firft the tomb of 
Agamemnon, but to avoid that of Clytemneftra. I have forgot 
to obferve, that Oreftes is, with great difficulty, prevailed upon to 
accept the generous offer of Pylades ; but he is at length forced to 
yield in this friendly cpnteft. 

The Chorus, to fill the interval after this adl, recount the mis- 
fortunes of the family of the Atridas; and paint the horror of 
Oreftes's crime,- who had been his mother's executioner. This is 
done exprefly to keep up the fears of the audience, that Orefte* 
will be condemned. 


Eleftra, whofe tender folicitude for her brother, would not allow 
her to enjoy many moments of repofe, returns to feek him. The 
Chorus tell her that he is gone with Pylades to appear before the 
afTembly. What a new fubjedl of terror is this foi: her! a man 
comes in fuddenly, and without giving her time to refledl upon the 
abfence of Oreftes, and the uncertainty of fuccefs, tells her abruptly, 
and with tears, that the aflembly have pronounced fentence againft 
her and her brother; that they are both condemned to death; and 
that they have no longer any relburce or hope of fafety. 

This man, who had been always faithful to the intereftsof Aga- 
memnon, gives a circumftantial account of what had paffed in the 
aflembly. Here follows his fpeech, which I have only abridged in 
feme pafTages, without changing the turn and manner of it : " I came 
" into the city, fays he, to get intelligence of the fituation Oreftes 
" and thou wert in, for gratitude bound me to king Agamemnon. 
*' I faw the people haftening to the place of judgment :'* (he means 
an eminence where Danaus was judged by the Argives, and con- 
demned to death * for having commanded his daughter to mur- 
der the fons of his brother Egyptus) " I afked one of the citizens, 
*' continues he, on what account this aflembly was held? is Argos 

* This fkble is very different from that ditions of fabulous hiftory were vcry^cor- 

of Efchylus, who fuppofes that Danaus and tradiftory, and the poets chofe fuch as btft 

his daughter found an Afylum in Argos. fuited their prefent purpOi'b, 
(See the fuppliantft of Efcbylus.) But the tra- 

VoL. 11. X X '' alarncd 


" alarmed with any fudden report of war ? Look, anfwercd hc^ 

** there is the perfon whom they are going to condemn to death. 

** I raifed my eyes, I beheld, (oh heavens ! what a fpedbacle was 

*' this for me!) I beheld Oreftes and Pylades; the former wafted 

" almoft to a (hadow with grief and pain; the latter fapporting. 

^' him with the tendernefs of a brother*. The aflembly was 

" formed; the herald with a loud voice, faid, do you abfolve or 

*' condemn the parricide Oreftes? fpeak, determine. Talthybius 

*' rofe up firft : this man who formerly was devoted to Agamem- 

" non, and had now joined the party of the moft powerful magi- 

" ftrates, made a fubtle fpeech, in which he took care to difobligc 

*' neither fide : he feemed willing to fpare thy father's memory; 

** but heexprefled himfelf in fo ambiguous a manner, with regard to 

" Oreftes, as gave great joy to the partizans of Egifthus. Men of 

^* this charader are always ready to take that fide which fortune 

** favours. King Diomede Ipoke next : he was for fparing your 

** lives, and condemning you only to baniOiment. Hereupon the 

« voices were divided ; fome praifed the propofal made by the king, 

** others blamed him for it. A citizen now rofe up in his turn^ 

'* bold, feditious, but capable of influencing a whole people by his. 

*' eloquence. What a fcourge are fuch geniufes to a ftate! He 

" infifted that both the brother and fifter ought to be ftoned. Tyn- 

" darus Ipoke after him, and pronounced againft you. At length 

" another perfon appeared, his air was fimple, and modeft, but 

** fuch as fpoke unftiaken courage and uncorruptible integrity ; a 

" good and honeft citizen, of the number of thofe who form the 

** ftrength and happinefs of a ftate, and, wifely attentive to their 

** own affairs, never engage in dangerous intrigues to difturb th^ 

** quiet of a city. He declared that Oreftes merited a crown 

'* for having revenged his father, and puniflied an impious mother j 

<* whofe pernicious example, if Oreftes was puniflied for her deaths 

•* would henceforwards prevent men from leaving their families 

*^ to ferve their country. His fpeech was applauded by all the 

** honeft citizens, and no more orators appeared. At length Oref- 

'* tes approached. Inhabitants of Argos, faid he, it was to revenge 

** the murder of my father, and your king, that I killed Cly- 

** temneftra." Here are repeated the arguments Oreftes had before 

made ufe or in his difcourfe toMenelaus; flie wing the dreadful con- 

fequences of leaving unpuniflied a crime like that of Clytemneftra's. 

* The whole of this narration appears to the penetrating wit of an Oedipus to make 
be an allegory upon the popular debates of the application to tunes and fads, 
ihc Athenian republic ; but it would require 




. The man continues his narration thus : *^ The ipcech of Oref- 
" tea was applauded, but he was not able to move the pfeople in 
•' his favour. The feditious orator turned the balance, and car- 
•' ried it againft him. Scarce could the prince prevail with them to 
" fpare him the infamy of dying by the hands of executioners : he 
^ gave his word for thee and for himfelf, that thou wouldft this day 
** execute the fentence paffed on thee by thine own hands. Pylades 
" and his friends weeping, lead him back, and thou wilt foon be • 
*' hold him/* 

Ele(Stra bends her cyts to the ground, and afterwards abandons 
herfelf to tears and complaints, which make the Interlude. She 
laments the fad deftinyof her ruined Iroufe, whofe misfortunes, the 
pad as well as prefent, ruih all together on her mind, and fhe def- 
cribes them with all the eloquence of exceffive forrow. 

It ought to be obferved, that Euripides, in the pidlure he has 
drawn of the Argive afTembly, alludes to the Athenian Areopagus, 
and to the orators of his own time, whom he (lightly touches in 
bis way; and in particular, one Cleophon of Thrace, who is al- 
fo mentioned by Ariftophanes, in his Frogs. At leaft it is theopi* 
nion of the Scholiaft, that Cleophon is painted in the charader of 
the feditious orator. The Greeks were great fpeech -makers; 
therefore it is not furprifing that Euripides (hould fometimes in his 
harangues affefk to ridicule the eloquence of fome Athenian orators; 
herein however, he offends againft the majefty of tragedy, as in a 
icene of his Ele<Stra, where he criticizes Efchylus. 

A C T IV. 

Oreftes returns, Ele<ftra weeps ; fhe thinks fhe now beholds 
him for the laft time. The brother tenderly endeavours to calm 
the grief of his lifter. " Wound me not, fays he, by this exceffive 
'* forrow; it is enough that the Argives have doomed us to die to- 
*• day." The prince's forrow is great, but heroic ; that of the 
princefs is more tender and more violent, in which the difference of 
manners is exaftly obfcrved. ** What, fays fhe, are we to die this day, 
** and doft thou forbid me to weep ?" She begs that fhe may die 
by the hand of Oreftes. •* I am already polluted with a mother's 
** blood, replies Oreftes, there needs not this increafe of guilt. 
«* Alas, refumes Eledtra! thy fword ought to render me this fad 
•t-officC) yet fuffer mc tagive. thee, a laft embrace." Oreftes un- 
willingly gives way to grief for a few moments: he fighs; and 
Eleftra, afTumiog more courage, now wifhes for nothing more 

X X 2 than 


than to die if it be poffible by the fame ftrokc that kills him; and 
to be laid in one tomb with her brother *. 

Oreftes, after obferving that the treacherous Menelaus did not 
fo much as appear at the aflembly, calls up all his fortitude. ^* Let 
" us die, fays tic, in a manner worthy the children of Agamem- 
** non : we are now to give the Argives a proof of our refolution : 
" follow my example, fifter ; and be thou, Pylades, a witnefs of our 
" deaths ; take care of our bodies^ and lay them in our father'^ 
*' tomb. Farewel/' 

Pylades. Stop one moment; thou injureft me Oreftes. How 
canft thou fuppofe that I will furvive thee ? 

Orestes. Of what ufe is it to me, that my friend dies with me ? 

Pylades. Alas ! hew can I live without thee ? 

Orestes. Thou art not a parricide as I am. 

Pylades. No, but I was an accomplice in thy crime; and ifc 
is juft that I Ihould (hare the punifhment of itv 

Orestes. No, live my Pylades, reftorc thy fathw his only fon» 
Thou haft a fceptre, I am deprived of mine. Thou haft thy fa?- 
ther's name to fupport> and immenfe riches wait thee. 'Tis true: 
thou lofeft EleiSra, whom I had deftined for thy bride : but mayftr, 
thou be bleft in a more fortunate marriage. All hope of a farther 
alliance between us is now no more* Adieu> my deareft friend f- 
live and enjpy that happinefs which is denied ta Eledra and. 
to me. 

Pylades. May I be cut off from earth and air, if to fave myr 
own life I bafely abandon thee. I contributed to thy crime ; nay 
I was the author of it : it is juft that I fhould die with thee and 
with Eledra, whom I confider as my wife. Alas^! what fhall I 
fay in my own defence, when I return to Phocis? I, who was the 
friend of you both, yet could forfake you when I faw you mi- 
ferable. No, my honour and my fame is too dear to me,, to fufFer 
me to be guilty of fuch a bafenefs : but fince we are determined> 
to die, let us firft take vengeance on Menelaus. 

Here we have a friendly conteft between Oreftes and Pylades- 
of the fame kind with that in the Iphigenia in Tauris. What fol- 
lows feems at firft vi6w to be inconfiftent with the manners 
of virtuous perfons ; for Pylades propofes a fcheme of revenge 
which is altogether fliocking. He advifes Oreftes to murder Helena 

• Oreftes and his fifter arc here in the fame fituation as Pctus and Arria. Sec Vol. I. 



and Oreftes refolvcs upon in Even the manner in which they 
concert their confpiracy has fomething cowardly in it. Yet they 
are in fome degree excufable, when we confider that Helen has a 
numerous train of attendants, and the princes were refolved that 
their vidtim fhould not efcape them. As for the diigrace they ftiould . 
incurby themurder^of a woman, Pylades wipes his off in the fame 
manner as iEheas in Virgil, when he relates his adventures to Dido. . 

*' Namque etfi nullum memorabile nomen 
^ Foeminea in paena eft, nee habet victoria laudem. 
** Extinxiffe nefas tamen, & fumpfillb mercntes . 
" Laudabor pcenas/* 

^Eor tho' the vidlor gaih>. 

No fame, na triumph for a woman flain ; 

Yet if by juft revenge the traitrefs bleed. 

The world confenting, will applaud the deed. . 

To mv own vengeance I devote her head, . 

And tne great fpirits of our heroes dead. Pitt. 

Pylades, upon the fame principle, propofes this adlion to Oreftes^^^- 
as one fo much the more jufliiiable, in that Helen is alike detefted^i 
by the Trojans and the Greeks. 

" Trbjas & patriae communis Erynnis."" 

The common plague I by Troy and Greece abhorred. . 

Already in thought fhe grafps the fceptre of Oreftes, and JVIene- - 
laus will enjoy it; but the intereft of all Greece is ftill a more pow — 
erful motive than their own private vengeance. If was- thfeir duty 
to deliver their country from a monfter, to revenge her injuries, and ^- 
to pacify the manes of thofe who fell at the fiege of Troy. " The - 
*^ Greeks, continues Pylades, will blefs us, and change the odious ^ 
** names of parricides and murdorcra into the glorious title of the r 
**' revengers of the ftatc." 

Such are the arguments urged by this prince ; and to him they . 
appear fo conclufive, that he referve^to himfelf the honour of gi- 
ving hen the firft wound. ** If our vidlim fhould efcape us, adds • 
** he, let us burn this palace, and die together in its afties. If either 
**ofour fchemes fucceed, we fhall die nobly, or perhaps efcape 
** with honour." 

The Chorus through hatred to Helen, enter into their confpi- 
racy. ^^ Ah ! cries Oreftes, there is, no thing that can be compared . 

« with t 


** with a true and conftant friend: treafures and fccptrcs ape poor 
*^ to this valuable pofleflion. Thou fharedft my former dangers ; 
'* thou aflbciatedft thyfelf in my misfortunes ; is my life again to be 
" expofed ? again I behold thee at my fide/' He then animates 
himfelf to purfue a revenge worthy, he fays, of Agamemnon, and 
of a fon who did not degenerate from him. 

Eledra, after hearing what both the princes had to propofe, ad- 
vifes them to facrifice the daughter as well as the mother to their 
revenge; or rather to keep Hermione, whom (he expedled imme- 
diately from Clytemneftra's tomb, as an hoftage; to the end that 
if Menelaus, when he found Helen murdered, (hould attempt to 
revenge her death, they might reftrain |iim, by threatening to make 
his daughter fuffer the fame fate; and thus treat with him fword in 
hand. Oreftes, charmed with thispropofal, laments the approaching 
death of Eleftra, whofe fortitude and courage merit a better fate 
than that to which (he is doomed, " My dear Pylades, adds he, 
*' what a wife doft thou lofc !" All this is beautifully contrived, to 
introduce the cataftrophe, as we (hall fee by what follows. 

The two princes and the princefs, by mutually encouraging one 
another, begin to recover their fpirits, and to perceive a ray of hope. 
They regulate their feveral pofts, as in a conspiracy. Eleiftra is to 
wait for the return of Hermione M the palace-gate, and give ^ the 
fignal for the enterprize to be begun in cale of any alarm. Oreftes 
and Pylades prepare to enter the palace, to execute their defign 
when neceffary; and they conclude this fcene with a folemn and 
majeftic invocation of Agamemnon's (hade, which I (hall give the 

Orestes. Oh father, who now dwelleft in the regions of eter- 
nal night, know it is thy fon who calls upon thee ! Oh come to 
our afliftance ! It is for thy fake that I have precipitated myielf into 
this excefs of mifery : it was for having revenged thee that I am 
betrayed, and abandoned by thy brother. I would punifti him by 
facrificing kis perfidious wife : give fuccefs to a defign fo juft and 

Electra. Oh father! if in thy tomb thou heareft the cries of 
thy unhappy children, who are upon the point of dying in thy caufe^ 
bafte to their afliftance. 

Pylades. Rejed not my prayers, oh Agamemnon ! thou who 
wert by blood united to my father, fave thy children. 

Orjestes. I killed a mother. 

Pylades. I prefentcd the poniard. 

3 Elec- 


Electra, I led the vidim into the fnare, 

Orestes. Oh my father, this was done to revenge thee ! 

Electra- And to perform, our duty. 

Pylades. Oh ! therefore hear our fupplications, auguft fliadc 
of Agamemnon, and fave thy blood. 

Orestes. I offer thee a libation of mv tears. 

Electra. My fighs and groans I offer. 

Pylades. Enough. It is now time to adt; if the prayers of 
mortals pierce the earth, and reach the dead, Agamemnon mufl 
hear ours. And thou, great Jupiter, the author of my race, the re- 
venger of injiiftice, afford thy aid to her, to him, to me, three 
friends engaged in the fame caufe ! let this event be equal to tliem. 
all, fafety or death. 

The two princes immediately enter the palace. As for Eleftra, 
(he continues at her poft with the Chorus, whom (he places at dif- 
ferent pafTages to obferve who goes in or comes out of the palace; 
and whether any fufpe<5ted perfon is near. Thefe are minute cir- 
cumftances of a confpiracy, which form a theatrical adion wholly 
in the manner of the Greeks, but full of beauties. Thofe terrors 
fo natural to the fex, efpecially on the execution of an important 
cntcrprize, which is nothing lefs than a revolution of flate, are here 
difplayed in the moft lively manner. Eledtra feparates the ladies 
of her little court, and ports them at all the avenues. One of them 
perceives a man coming; Eledtra gives all for loft; the lady removes^ 
all her fears. The princefs fends to another place to fee if all be 
quiet, and (he is told that no perfon is to be feen. She then goes 
to the palace gate, and exhorts the princes to difpatch Helen. 
'* They hear me not, refumes fhe : ah how wretched am I ! has 
" her charms blunted their poniards ?" 

Eledra again vifits each poft; fhe fears left fome of the Argivcs 
ihould haften to the afliftance of Helen. In fuch a fituation every 
thing is fufpedled, every thing infpires terror. " 'Tis now, fays fhe^ 
** that we muft caft our eyes on all fides.'' La Fontaine makes 
the lark in his fable fay the fan* thing *. 

" Rien ne nous prefTe encore de changer de reflilte> 
** Mais c*eft demain qu'il faut de bon ^couter.'* 

Helen is now heard to cry out for help. The Chorus offer 
up prayers for Oreftes : Helen cries out again, an4 Eleftra ani- 

* The Lark atid her Young. 




mates the princes to ftrike as in that tragedy of Sophocles which 
is called Ele£tra-f. The Argivc ladies hear a noife on one 
fide ; it is Hermione returning from the tomb. The fifter of 
Oreftcs orders her friends to appear compofcd, that Hermione 
may entertain no fufpicion of any danger. The young prin- 
ccfs declares that fhe is terrified at the cries and the noife {he 
has jull heard in the palace. ** Alas, replies Eledra, thefe cries 
** fuit with our miferable ftatc." She then informs her of the fen- 
tence which had been pronounced by the affembJy of the people 
againft her brother and herfelf ; and deceiving her by a falfe con- 
fidence, makes her believe that Orefles was imploring Helen to in- 
.tereft herjelf in their favour, and to deliver them from death. Her- 
mione, being the dupe of this artifice, promifes to employ her 
good offices in their behalf, and goes into the palace, where fhe is 
immediately fecured by the princes, as had before been agreed 
upon. Eledtra then defires the Chorus to make a noife, that what 
palTes in the palace may not be heard without, and enters herfelf 
to wait the ifllie of the confpiracy. 

At that inflant a Phrygian flave of Helen's comes out in an agony 
of fear; and, not knowing whereto conceal himfelf from the death 
that awaits him, utters dreadful cries. When he is a little recover- 
ed, the Chorus prevail upon him to give tliem an account of what 
had happened : he tells them that Oreftes and Pylades approached 
:Helen in the manner of fuppliants; and that the Phrygian flaves 
apprehending fome treachery, or at leaft feeming doubtful what to 
think, fuddenly placed themfelves about the queen ; that he him- 
felf was employed in fanning her, (apart of Phrygian luxury, often 
mentioned by the poets) (lie held the diftafF in her hand, and was 
employed in fpinning purple vefts, which fhe deftined as an offer- 
ing to the fhade of Clytemneftra : that Oreftcs intreated her to 
•pafs forwards to the ancient altar of Pelops, and hear what he had 
j:o fay to her ; and as foon as fhe complied with his requeft, not 
.iufpeding her fate^ Pylades under various pretences removed that 
numerous train of Phrygian Haves, and locked them up in feveral 
apartments. When they had reached the altar, the two Grecian 
.princes drew their poniards, which they had concealed under their 
robes, fpeaking thus to Helen : " Thou muft die, and it is to the 
•** treachery of thy hufband that thou oweft thy death ', in revenge 
*^ for his having betrayed the fon of his brother. The queen, 

* The Eleftra of Sophocles, Vol. I. Aa V. Sc. II. 

" con- 


" continues the flave, cried out; (he attempted to fly, but Oreftet; 
•^ held her faft by the hair, and bending down her head upon her 
** fhoulder, was ready to ftrike, when the flaves breaking open the 
*^ doors, came in crouds to her affiftance, arming themlclves with 
** the firft weapons they could lay hold of: but Pvlades advancing 
V fiercely towards them, like the warrior Ajax, or Hed:or, fuch as I 
•** have fcen him in Priam's palace, it now appeared plainly how 
*' greatly we are inferior to the Greeks in valour." Here he def- 
cribcs in few words, the combat which enfiied, and in which ma- 
ny of the flaves weire cither flain or wounded. Hermionc, adds 
he, entered and threw herfelf into the arms of her mother. The 
two princes forced her from thence; and as they returned to Hdon 
to facrifice her, this queen, the daughter of Jupiter and Leda, fuA- 
denly vaniflied out of fight. The flave concludes his relation v«/ith 
this circumftance; and here ends the fourth ad, unlefs we willfup-^ 
pofe that the fifth aft begins widi the entrance of this Phrygian, , 
which indeed would appear more natural. * ' 

A C T V. 

Oreftes comes out with his fword in his hand ; he is apprehen- 
five that the eunuch will alarm the people by his cries : the trem- 
bling wretch conjures him to fpare his life, which Oreftes prcMniles, 
upon ^condition that he will (wear his attempt againfl: Helen was 
juft. The flave agrees. to every thing to preferve himfelf; and 
Oreftes fends him back to the palace. This fcene partakes a lit- 
tle of the nature of comedy: it is full of fatirical ftrokesagainft the 
Phrygians, in complaifance to the Oreeks ; and there are fome le- 
•veiled at the philofpphers of the times: as for example, when Oref- 
tes fiiys to the eunuch, *' Thou art a flave, and yet thou art afraid 
** of deaths which will free thee from all thy miferies I" A ftoical 
fentime n t . The ctmuch tcHs him that life is fweet even to flaves. 
The prince enters the palace again, and the fecond fcene is only 
an artifice of the Chorus, who make feveral movements on the 
ftagc, as ufual, apparently to prevent the enterprize from being dif- 
covercd without ; but in a few moments a fmoke is feen wichin 
the palace, where the confpirators are preparing materials to fet it 
in flames. The Chorus perceive Menelaus coming, who has been 
in part informed of what had happened: he endeavours to force 
his way into the palace, but Oreftes ftiews himfelf upon a balcony, 
and refufes him entrance. He points his fword at the breaft of 
Hermione, and already the flames begin to appear. The prince 

Vol. 11. Yy threatens 


threatens Menelaus to kill his daughter before his eycs^ and to bum 
the palace^ if inftead of making any attempt to enter by force, he 
does not inftantly obtain a revocation of tlie fentence which the 
people had pronounced againft him and his (ifter. Menelaus^ di- 
vided between r^e and fear, neither dares to grant or to refiifc 
what is demanded of him. ^ Oreftes infifls upon his immediate 
compliance ; but upon Menelaus's delay, who calls out for ailift- 
ancc, he bids Eleftra and Pylades fet fire to the palace. 

It now becomes neceffary for Apollo to defcend from heaven to 
unravel the plot : he declares that he had preferved Helen from the. 
defigned vengeance of Oreftcs ; he fhews her to Menelaus in glory ; 
he flays the arm of Orefles, and commands him to efpouie Her- 
mione, whom he was upon the point of facrificing ; and to purify 
him from the ilain he had contraded, Apollo impofes upon him a 
year s banifhmcnt, according to the cuftom of the Greeks. He 
requires that he (hould afterwards go to Athens, and fubmit to 
the judgment of the Areopagus, as Efchylus has (kfcribed it in his 
Furies; and laftly, this God takes upon himfelf the government 
of the kingdom of Argos, till Oreftes returns to reign in peace 
and glory. . Eledtra is given in marriage to Pylades ; and the tra- 
gedy concludes, not only with folemn thanks to the Gods, but 
alfo with a fincere reconciliation among the princes.. 

It is eafy to perceive that this a£t and this unravelment are not 
the moil beautiful parts of this tragedy, in which diere are like*^ 
wife fome ftrokes of a caft too low ;. not to fay coraick, at Icaft ac- 
cording to our manner of thinking. However, it obtained the 
prize, as the laft words of the Chorus give us to underftand ; and 
if we attend to the poet's art in the theatrical adion, and the nice 
conduct of the paflions, we muft allow that it merited thi^ ho- 

* Ariftode» in the i6th chapter of his mtt this to be the meaning of Ariftotte, 

poetickSy condemns the manners of Mene- who fays no more than this i " We offend 

laus in thb piece of Euripides. Daderex- '' againft the goodnefs of manners whea 

plains this crkictfm thus: Menelaus» he '* they are not neceflary; fach are the man-^ 

iay% a6U inconfiftent with his charader^ ** ners of Menelaus in the Oreftes of Euri« 

aad docs not hold to what he feemed to <' pides." it is more probable that Arifto- 

promife ; when after having taken a reib- tie blames Euripides for having made Me- 

lution agreeable to reafon and humanity, nelaus too bad an uncDe; for ib he appears: 

h^ changes it through fear and policy ; and throughout the whole piece,, and is there- 

al^andons his nephew. I cannot cafily ad- fore always confiftent» 





HIS tragedy is a real Thebaid^ although the title does not 
feem to promife it. The pieces of Seneca and Racine upon 
the fame fubjedt are only (hadows of it ; fo much does this tragedy 
of Euripides abound in defcriptions of war, and in Hiining fen* 


The prologue to this piece, as well as that of Oreftes, explains 
part of the fubjedt; or rather acquaints the audience with what 
preceded the action of the Drama. It is Jocafta, queen of Thebes, 
who fpeaks. The other perfons are, an old Equerry, Antigone, 
the daughter of Jocaftaj the Chorus^ compofed of Phenician vir- 
gins; Polynices and Eteocles, fonsof Jocafta; Crcon, the queen's 
brother; Menelaus, the fon of Creon; Tirefias, a prophet; two 
meflengers; and Oedipus, the fon and hufband of Jocafla. 

A C T I. 

The queen comes to repeat her misfortunes to the fun, accord- 
ing to a cuftom among the Greeks, which has been already ob- 
ferved in the Eledlra of Sophocles and elfewhere. She dates her 
miferies from Cadmus, the fon of Agenor, tlie founder of the fa- 
mily of Laius. Cadmus fixed his refidence in the Thcban country; 
and by his wife Hermione, the daughter of Venus, he had a fon 
named Polydorc. Laius, the grand-fon of this Polydorc, married 
Jocafta, Creon's fifter; and it was this marriage which produced 
the calamities which have furniihed the ancient poets with fb 
many fubjefts for tragedy. 

Although we have already feen this hiftory in the Seven Chiefs 
at the fiege of Thebes, a tragedy of Efchylus, and in the two Oedi- 
ous's of Sophocles, yet I fhall notj (crup!e to follow the thread 
*^ Y y 2 of 


of this prologue, and to repel* ttic principal events which may 
have efcapcd the reader : we (hall fee how varioufly the fame fub- 
ie<as are managed by different poets ; and what alterations they 
have made in the circumftances of each ftory. 

Laius, difcontented with a marriage which had (6 long been bar- 
ren, implored Apollo to grant him a fon : the God replied that he 
ought not to be folicitous for a fucceffor, fince the fon he prayed 
for would be his aflaffin; and that his pofterity would fill hishoufe. 
with grief and murders. Laius paid no regard to this Oracle; he 
had a fon; but immediately after repenting of it, he caufed the feet 
of the infant to be bored mrough and deHvened to fbme fhepherds, 
to be cxpofed upon mount Cytheron. Here he was taken up by 
other fhepherds, who called him Oedipus from his fwoUen feet, 
and prefented him to Merope, the wife of Polybus, king of Co* 
rinth. This princdfe having no child of her own, made Wm pafs 
for the king's fon ; but Oedipus, when he grew up, fufpeded the 
deceit, and, to clear his doubts, went to Delphos to confult the 
Oracle of Apollo concerning his birth. Laius, alfo anxious about 
his fate, left Thebes, in order to go to Delphos, and enquire of 
the God whether his fon was alive-or not. The father and foa 
met in a narrow part of the road to Phocis; Oedipus was onfbot^ 
and the king in a chariot. His Equerry ufed fomc affronting 
language to Oedipus, who bcfiig hurt by the horfes, grewextreme<- 
ly enraged and killed Laius. Some time afterwards, the territor^r 
ofThebes was laid wafte bythe Sphinx : Oreonpromifed the {ccptrt 
and Jocafla in marriage to any man who ihotild deliver »the city,hf 
unfolding the riddle propofed by the monfter. Oedipus, coming by 
chance to Thebes, explained the enigma; and having thus prefcrved 
Thebes, he was rewarded with the crown, slnd became the ^A>and 
of his mother, without knowing he was fb. He had two ions bjr 
Jocafta, Eteocles and Polynices, and two daughters, Ifmena and 
Antigone, the former was named by the father, the latter by the 
'mother, which was the cuflom among the Greeks, and lingular 
enough -, but as Euripides has expreffed it in this prologue, I 
thought it neceffary to mention it. Oedipus, at length difcovered 
that he had married his mother; and in the grief and horror he 
Telt for this involuntary crime, he tore out his own eyes. His fbns, 
being of an age to be fenfible of thefe misfortunes, fhut up their 
father in an apartment of his palace, to conceal as much as poffi- 
ble the (hame of their birth. Euripides therefore makes Oedipus 
to be in Thebes, which Sophocles does not; but fuppofes that he 


f H E P W E N I C I A N S. ^49 

is baniihed. This unfortunate father loaded his two fons with im- 
precations, and predicted to them that they fhould kill each other. 
The princes, to prevent difputes, agreed to feparate, and to reign over 
Thebes each ayear alternately : but Eteocles, dazzled with the luftrc 
of a crown, refufed to refign it when his year was expired, and ba- 
ni{hed Polynices. The injured prince had recourfe to the Argives v 
he married the daughter of their king, *' And his father-in-law, 
" (purfues Jocafta,) returns with him to Thebes, to demand the 
" fceptre at the point of his fword." 

It is here that the dramatic a^ion begins. The city of Thebes 
is inverted by the troops of Argos; but Jocafta has prevailed upon 
the two brothers to confent to a truce, during which Polynices was 
to enter Thebes to propofe terms of accommodation to Eteocles. 
" Oh Jupiter ! fays flie, fave our wretched houfe, and reconcile my 
** fons. Father of all mankind, canft thou fuffer thofe whom thou 
** haft afflidted to continue always miferable ?" 

Such is the prologue which the poet has put into the mouth of 
Jocafta, who retires after ftie has brought the audience to that 
point where the action begins. It may beobferved by the different 
manner in which the fame hiftory was treated by the Greek poets, 
what liberty they aiTumed of altering events- Thefc alterations in- 
deed were fbmetimes very confiderable, but never carried fo far as 
to ihock the public belief; yet it is certain that in Sophocles, Jo- 
cafta dies by her own hand, after diicovering that {he has married 
her own fon ; whereas here ftie furvives the knowledge of her 
misfortunes, fo various arc fabulous traditions. 

The following fcene is a very happy imitation of Homer: An- 
tigone^ the daughter of Jocafta, obtains the queen's pcrmiffion to 
leave her women, and with an old man, who conducts her^ 
afcends a baluftrade of the palace, in order to take a view of the 
Argive army. Here there is a remarkable decorum obferved. 
The old man lopks carefully on all .fides to obferve if any of the 
citizens could fee them ; for the Greeks would have been (hocked 
to fee a youn^ princefs appear alone in an unfrequented place. But 
all thofe beauties which abound in Homer's defcription of the 
Grecian camp before Troy are to be found in Euripides, whofeems 
to have improved upon his model ; and the more happily, as the 
tragick poet makes his charadcrs aft what Homer has thrown in- 
to narration. 

In the third book of the Iliad, wc read that Priam having 
made Helen fit dowo by him upon a tower, from whence they 



could have a view of the whole Grecian army, defires her to give 
him a particular account of all the chiefs they fee ; and Helen an- 
fwers him, that warrior is Ulyflcs, that Ajax, that other Agamem- 
non; giving him at the fame time the charaftcrs of each of them. 
This is a beautiful piece of artifice to make the principal perfons 
of the poem known to the reader; and fo naturally condudledj that 
it has even found favour with the moft fcvere cenfurers of that great- 
eft of all poets. Euripides has copied it exadlly, in order to bring 
the whole army of the befiegers in (bme manner before the eyes of 
the audience. Thefe two poets, whofe defignit was to paint every 
thing naturally to the ages in which they wrote, have by that 
means inftrudledus perfedly in thegenius of the moft ancient fieges 
that are mentioned in hiftory. Antigone, with the afliftancc of 
the old man, afcends the higheft part of the palace ; but (till in 
fight of the audience. *' We are come very feafonably, fays the 
" old man; the Argive army is in^ motion, and feparating into fe- 
•' veral cohorts." The young princefs is terrified at firft when fhe 
fees the whole field covered with arms, and is extremely apprehen- 
five for the fate of Thebes. Her guide comforts her; and curiofity 
fucceeding to fear, fhe aflcs him, like Priam in the Iliad, a great 
many queftions, which he anfwers in the fame manner as Helen ; 
and as the chiefs are all known to him, he names them as he points 
them out- Here is Hippomedon, there Tydeus, upon that emi- 
nence is Parthenopus, and fo of all the others. But it is not ne- 
ceflary that we ftiould dwell long upon this paflage, becaufe the 
heroes he defcribes, have no fliare in the adion of this piece. An- 
tigone aflcs him where her brother Polynices is; he (hews him to 
her at a great diftance, with Adraftus, his father-in-law. She 
perceives him, and exclaims, " Alas ! why can I not like a light 
** cloud traverfe in a few minutes the fpace that feparates us, that I 
•' may embrace this dear banifhed brother, who has fo long been 
" wretched !" She admires his noble air and the luftre of his 
arms. ** Thy wifties will be gratified, fays the old man to hef ; 
*^ Polynices, upon the fecurity of the public faith, will foon be 
•' here.*' At length the old man perceiving fbme women whom 
the alarm had drawn from the palace approaching, intreats Anti- 
gone to retire to her apartment. " For women, fays he, are na- 
^' turally malignant, and the leaft occafion furniflies them with a 
•' fruitful fource of calumny. They aggravate the fault, and enjoy 
" an exquifite pleafure in calumniating each other/' This is Eu- 


THE P H E N I ^ I A N g. 351 

The Chorus furnifli the third fcene, or the Interlude: this Cho- 
rus is compofcd of a number of young virgins of Phenicia. They 
lament their misfortune in happening to be in a foreign country, 
at the time it was befieged; and when they were juft upon the 
point of going to Delphos. Euripides would not compofe his Cho- 
rus of Theban women, whofe duty muft neceffarily have attached 
them to the intereft of Etcocles, unjuft as he was : therefore he 
introduces foreigners; but of a nation allied to the Thebans, the 
decendants of Agenor having made themfelves mafters of the city 
of Tyre. The Tyrians after this conqueft, ufcd to fend a chofen 
number of their daughters to Thebes, to be from thence fent to 
Delphos, where they were made priefteflcs of Apollo. This which 
was firft a tribute, afterwards became a religious cuftom. From 
thefe Tyrians, or Phenician virgins, the tragedy takes its name. 
The interlude fung by them here, explains their fituation, and the 
caufe of their terror at thefe preparations for war. They tremble 
for Thebes, left their own country fhould be involved in her mi- 
feries : their interefts are common, from the ftridt alliance) and the 
ties of blood by which the Thebans and the Phenicians are con- 

A C T II. 

Polynices appears with his fword drawn in his hand ; becaufe he 
is apprehenfive of fome treachery from a brodier who feems capa- 
ble of any degree of guilt. However, as foon as he perceives tnat 
there are altars near him, (which are facred afylums) he fheaths 
his fword, that he may not terrify the Phenicians. They make 
themfelves known to him, and fall proftrate at his feet, according 
to the law, by which they were confidered as captives, fubjedted 
to the family of Agenor. After this a<9: of fubmifiion, they give 
the queen notice of his arrival^ who comes with eager hafte to re- 
ceive her fon. 

She embraces him with the moft afieding tendemefs, fuch as 
xnay be expefted from a mother, who once more fees an unl^ippy 
fon whom ihe had long lamented, and with the deepeft indications 
of ibrrow ; fuch as cutting off her hair, and wearing a mourning 
habit. She paints the fufferings of an impriibned famer abandon- 
ed to his defpair ; {he gently reproaches him with the alliance he 
had contracted by marrying a foreigner. *♦ I, fays flbe, have not 
^^ kindled the hymenial torch as happy mothers do. The river 
^' lihienus did not afford thee the nuptial bath; nor has Thebes 



*' rcfoundqd with (houts of joy in honour of thy bride. May the 
** Gods avert theft fatal prefages frotn us ; for whatever be the 
** caufe, difcord, war, thy father, or hievitable fate, thefe miferies 
** fall all on me/' 

Polynices anfwers, that he came to Thebes breathing defiance ; 
but that the love of his country had prevailed over his defire of re- 
venge. He apologizes for having traverfed the city with his 
fword drawn ; but his fears were too well grounded not to pay fbmc 
regard to them. However he relies, he fays, upon the truce, and 
upon the faith of Jocafta for his faffety. The fight of the palace, 
and thofe places where he had pafled years fo dear to his remem- 
brance, forces fome tender tears from him ; but his greateft afflic- 
tion is to fee his mother with fo many marks of mourning, and of 
v^rhofe diftreffes he is unwillingly the caufe. This whole inter- 
view is extremely tender. 

jocafta, to introduce infenfibly the article of a reconciliation be- 
tween die brothers, which fhe hdped to efFcft, leads Polynices to 
recount his adventures. What follows is a clofe dialogue in fingle 
verfes. Polynices, in a very affeding manner, defcribes the ex- 
treme diflrefs to which he had been reduced : a miferable prince 
banifhed from his country, witfiout friends and fupport ; he has 
even proved the calamities of indigence and want. He fays exprefly, 
** That none can fubfift upon the noblenefs of their birth j and Aat 
^ one's country is the moft dcfirable of all bleflings, finds an exile 
** has no longer either friends or any refource." He afterwards 
tells Jocafta in what manner he obtained the friendihip of the 
king of Argos, 

This prince had received an oracle, by which he was com- 
manded to give 'his two daughters in marriage to a lion and a 
boar. Pdlynices and Tydeus, being both baniflied, came to his 
court to implore his aid-, he iritet'pfeted the oracle in thcrr favour, 
married his daughters to them, and fwore to re-eftablifti them in 
their feVeral countries by force of arms. Here Polynices fighs on 
refledlirig that he leads an army ^ainft his native land. ** I call 
** the Gods to witnefs, fays he, that unwillingly I wage war againft: 
** what is deareft to me in the world ; but for thee, my mother, 
•* is referved the glory of terminating our woes, of reconciling two 
" rival brothers, and of recalling peace, fo much to be dtfired by 
*' thee, by me, and the v^hole ftate." 

Polynices fpeaks like a king uiijuftly dethroned, with granduer 

and moderation j but he concludes with a Tery lingular fentiment, 

6 and 

T HE P H E N I C I A N S. 353 

and which clearly marks the txceCs of mifery to which his exile 
had reduced him, in times very different from ours ; in which 
however we have feen diftrefled monarchs, notwithftanding the 
humanity of their benefaSors, ftruggling with the efFe<fts of themoft 
{hocking poverty. ** Wealth, fays this unhappy prince, is what 
" is moft revered among men, an indigent prince is nothing. This 
" is the caufe of my coming to Thebes at the head of an army." 
The Chorus giye the queen notice that Eteoclcs appears. 

This prince, whofe fierce and impetuous charafter is finely con- 
trafted with the noble, yet mild difpofition of Polyniccs, fpeaks 
in thefe terms as he enters : '* Behold me here, madam : it is in 
^' obedience to you that I come. What is it you require of 
*' me ?" He would make a merit of his confenting to this inter- 
view with his brother. 

'« Stay, anfwers the queen; precipitation in conjun<flures deli- 
<* cate like this is always hurtful: prudence requires that we 
*' fhould proceed calmly and deliberately if we hope to fucceed. 
*' Soften thofe fiery glances, Eteocles, fupprefs that rage which 
** feems ready to break out ; it is not a Medufa whom thou be- 
** holdeft, alas! it is thy brother who approaches thee. And do 
" thou Polynices turn thy eyes upon thy brother; this fight will 
^^ diipofe thee to ipeak to him, and to hear him calmly. I have 
" but this advice to give you both : remember that in an interview 
** between two angry friends, each ftiould forget what is paft, and 
*' think only on the occafion that brings them together. Polyni- 
*^ ces, it is thy part to ipeak firft, fince thou art come to make thy 
^^ complaints at the head of an army« and to demand juftice, as thou 
« alledgeft. Oh, may fome God become the arbitrator, the judge, . 
*' and the reconciler of this diflference !" 

Polynices. Truth neither feeks nor needs the embellifhments 
of art i ihe fpeaks with plainnefs ; fhe defpifes the turns of artificial 
^loquence^ and in hcrfelf confifts her force. It is not fo with inju- 
ftice ; confcious of her weaknefs, flie calls in fophiftry to her affift- 
ance. It was my intention to provide for the common interefts of 
the ftate, my brother's, and my own; I was dcfirous of prevent- 
ing theefFeds of my father'sjmprecations; I yielded the crown to 
Eteocles for a year : I became a voluntary fugitive, but upon con- 
dition of reigning in my turn; Lexpedted not to fufFer the inju-. 
ries that have been inflifted on me, nor to return like an enemy to 
plunge a fword in the bofom of my country. Eteocles agreed to 
ihare the fceptre with mc ; he called the Gods to witnefs to the 

Vol. IL Z z refit- 


rectitude of his intentions; andyet^ in contempt of hisoaths, heftlll 
reigns, and fills the place which I ought now to fill. Let him re« 
ilore the fceptre to me, and behold me ready to difband the army, 
and to yield him the crown in my turn. On this condition I win 
free thee from thy apprehenficMis; fpare the walls of Thebes, and 
carry on no longer a criminal afTauIt; but if a denund fo reafonable 
is rcfufcd me, I am determined to do myfelf juftice by my fword- 
I atteft the Gods who know the fincerity of my heart and the equity 
of my caufc, that I am unjuiUy driven out of my native country* 

The Chorus approve a fbeech fo reafonable and fo moderate. 

Eteocles. Ir all men mought alike with regard to what is ho^ 
nourable, there would no longer be any difTentions amongft us ; 
but minds are varioufly affeded by the fame things. We are all 
agreed upon the name of honour, the thing itfelf is differently un-p* 
derflood. I will not difguife my fentiments, mother. I would fcalp 
the heavens^ and penetrate into the bowels of the earth, if by thefe 
means I could obtain a nobler fceptre. Tome a throne is a blefling 
fo valuable, that I can never refolve to yield it to another. How def- 
picable fhould I appear, if I who have been a king could afterwards 
defcend to the condition of a fubje<5t? how £hameful would it be to 
yield this throne to a traitor who comes in arms to lay wafle his native 
country? whatinfamy for Thebes, andformyfelf, if fear ofthc Argive 
lances fhould force me to defcend from the throne, and place a coa- 
queror there ? No, princefs; it is not with fword inhandthathe fhould 
have endeavoured to negotiate with me : his arguments, if reafon- 
able, would have been as powerful as his army. Let him dwell ia 
Thebes ; I confent to it 5 but let him not hope that after having 
given law to him, I fhall debafe myfelf fo far as to receive it from 
him {To Polynices.) Go then employ all the horrors of war againfl thy 
country, cover thefe fields with hoflile troops ; I will not refign my 
crown. Thou mayfl talk of juflice ; I will pbferve it in all things; 
but if ever it is excufable to violate juflicc, it is when a fceptre is in 

Joe ASTA. Mifery is not the only portion of old age, my fon; that 
experience which it brings along with it is a fufficient compenfa- 
tion, and guides us more fecurely than the impetuofity of youth.. 

•• t Si violer la juftice & le droit 

« 111 eft licite a Thomme en quelque endroit, 

•« C'eft pour regner qu'il fe le doit permettre.** 

Plutarch's tieatife of reading the poets, tranflated by Amyot. 



Alas ! by what fatality has Ambition, that dangerous Goddefs, pre- 
vailed upon thee to break thy oaths ? How many families, how 
many ftates has ihe entered, and never left them till (he had made 
them miferable ? It is her who tranfports thee thus, my fon. Ah ! 
would it not be more glorious for thee to be contented with that 
happy equality which connects friends, warriors, and kingdoms 
with each other ? equality is the facred law of mankind. 

Jocafta is a little tedious here in her panegyric upon equality, 
which ihe calls the principle of weights, meafures, and the fuccef- 
five return of day and night : from whence (he concludes, that Ete- 
Qcles ought to fliare the fceptre with his brother. Thofe fix or 
ieven lines we have taken notice of, as well as many others, well - 
deferve to be retained; but this kind of reaibning wodld not pleafe 
us, and was only fit for the Greeks, who were fond of fentences. 

Jocafta,fpeakswith more dignity, when (he calls a crown aglorious 
burthen*. ^' Whatis to be found in it, fays Ihe, butmore labour, and 
" more grandeur than in other conditions of life ? Thofe who are 
<< capable of fetting bounds to their defires will be contented with a 
** mediocrity. Riches belong truly to the Gods : they are only 
** lent to men, and therefore the Gods refume them when they 
'* pleafe. Judge of this truth by the inftability of fortune. If I 
^< fliould afk thee, oh my fbn ! which is mofi: dear to thee, the 
" throne, or the fafety of the ftatc ; wouldft thou dare to anfwer 
" that it is the throne thou valueft moft ? but if Polynices ihould 
*' conquer, if Argos fhould prevail over Thebes, thou wouldft fee 
** this very Thebes laid wafte : thou wouldft fee oUr captive vir- 
** gins torn by the cruel enemy from the arms of their mothers?. 
" Ah ! how dearly would the Thebans pay then for this fupreme 
** power, which has fo many charms for thee. Such, Eteocles, are 
*' the arguments I had to urge to thee.'* 

" As for thee, Polynices, I (hall tell thee with the fame franknefs, 
<< tliat Adraftus was to blame to offer thee his fatal fuccours ; and 
*' thou wert to blame for accepting them, with an intention to 
** deftroy thy country. For alas ! if thou ihouldft take Thebes, 
•* (but may the Gods avert this misfortune) if thou ihouldft take 
" Thebes, my fon, how wouldft thou erefl: trophies for thy con- 
«' queft ? how wouldft thou offer facrifices to the Gods for fuch 

* Euripides in this place (peaks like a ferent;- and Plato, his cotemporary, blame; 
democratic republican. However, he elfe- him for praiitng monarch and monarchy 
vheit? feems to adopt fentiments veiy dif- too highly. 

Z Z 2 '* im- 

356 T H E P H E N I C I A N S: 

" impious fuccefe? What infcription wooldft thou place 'on Ac 
•* fpoils heaped upon the banks of the river that faw thy birth ? 
" Polynices, wouldft thou fay, confecra'ted to the Gods thefe ann& 
•* won from his country, which he has reduced to aflies. Ah, my 
•* fon, mayft thou never be ftained with fuch impious glory! but 
** if, on the contrary, thou (houldft be vanquifhed, how wilt thou 
*^ be able to appear again in Argos, after leaving thefe fields co« 
** vercd with the bodies of her citizens who fell in thy defence ? 
** will not Adraftus hear murmurs like thefe from his people ? how 
<' fatal has the alliance been which our king has contraded witlv 
«* Polyniccs ? The lives rf his people have been facrificed to this 
*' marriage. Believe me, Polynices, thou haftenefl to a double miC- 
«* fortune; thou art going to lofe the friendfhip of the Atgives^ 
•« and thou wilt be difappointed in thy hopes of gaining the The- 
«* ban crown. Reftrain, my dearfons, reftrain your fatal ambition* 
" Alas! what miferies may we not cxpeft from two furious ri- 
^ vals, who have the fame objedt in view?" 
' The Chofus, in a few words, redouble their prayers for peace. 
It is not Etcocles therefore who interupts Jocafta, as fiarnes fup- 
pofes. This commentator, (to whom we are indebted for that fine 
edition of Euripides, printed in London in the year 1694, in which 
he has colleded the criticifins of almoft all the commentators 
upon this poet, without reckoning his own notes and corredtions, in 
which he has fometimes fucceeded very happily) exclaims here, 
and in other places with too much boldnefs againft the fcholiafts 
and criticks, becaufe they do not entirely approve of Jocafta's 
fpeech, which they alledge to be weak and inconclufive. Thefe 
criticks may be in the wrong, although Barnes fhould be found to 
have injuftly accuied them of ignorance. In the wrong they are 
without doubt, fince in Jocafta's fituation it would be difficult to 
imagine any thing more fenfible, or more elegant fimplicity dif- 
played than in her way of rcafoning upon the re^ interefts of Eteo- 
cles and Polynices. But the argument Barnes urges to decry 
them is exceflively ill founded. If the queen^ difcourfe appears 
weak to them, fays he, it is becaufe they would not perceive that 
fhe has not faid all that (he intended to fay; and that flie is inte- 
rupted by Eteocles, when fhe is upon the point of continuing her 
argument. Now it is the Chorus who Ipeak immediately after 
the queen, and Eteocles fpeaks after them ; befides, Jocafta had 
laid to this prince what flie thought neceffary, before fhe addreffed 



herfelf to her other fon. Eteocles therefore fpeaks tbus^ after the 

Eteocles. We are not now to diipute in words. We lofe time: 
thy efforts mother are all fruitlefs. Again I declare that I will 
confent to no other terms than thofe I have already oflSered. I an^ 
now in pofleflion of the throne, and I am refolved to be fo always. 
Spare me new couniels, mother ^ and dothou, Polynices, go out of 
thefe walls, or death awaits thee. 

PotYNiCES. And by whoie hand {hall I fall ? where is this in- 
vulnerable hero, who fhall pierce this bofom without dreading a? 
like fate from me ? 

Eteocles. I am he; tremble to behold this arm. 

PoLYNicES. Me doft thou bid tremble! profperity infpires fomc 
perfons with too great fondnefs for life to make them dreadful. 

Eteocles, I underftand thee ; it is becaufe thou feareft to meet 
me in a iingle combat, that thou comeft to brave me at the head of 
a numerous army. 

PoLYNiCES. Prudence will prevail over blind impetuofity. 

Eteocles. Thou majrft thank the truce for thy fecurity, other- 
wife this infult fliould be thy laft. 

PoLYNicES. Once more 1 demand of thee the fceptre which ia 
due to me. 

Eteocles. It is mine, and I will keep it. 

Pol YN ICES. And is it folely thine? 

Eteocles. Ceafe thy importunity, and be gone. 

PoLYNicEs. Ye facred altars of my paternal houfe — - 

Eteocles Which thou art preparing to overthrow. 

PoLYNiCES. Oh liften to my complaints ! 

Eteocles. Thinkeft thou they will liften to a citizen who has 
taken arms againft them ? 

PoLYNicis. Ye guardian Gods of Thebes ! 

Eteocles. Thofe Gods are all thy enemies. 

PoLYNiCES. I have been banifhed from my native country. 

Eteocles. And thou returneft to lay it defolate. 

PoLYNiCES. I am forced to it by thy injuftice. Hear me, ye 
equitable powers !— *~ 

Eteocles. Away, and fupplicate the Gods of Mycene. 

PoLYNiCES. Thou art paft all fear of the Gods. 

Eteocles. But at Icaft I am not the declared enemy of my 


3s8 T H E P H E N I C I A N S- 

PoLYNiCES. And art thou determined to exclude me from my 
inheritance ? 

Eteocles. I will do more^ if thou provokeft me to it. {Here 
be lays Ins band m bis fword.) 

FoLYNiCEs. Oh my father^ thou heareft the outrage that is of- 
fered me ! 

Eteocles. He alfo hears the noife of thy arms* 

Pol YN ICES. Oh mother! — 

Eteocles. Profane not that name; to thee it is forbidden to 
ufe it. 

PoLYNiCES. Oh Thebes !-— 

Eteocles. Go» implore thy Argos. 

PoLYNicES. Ah^ doubt it not! I will have recourfe to Argos. 
Oh mother, to thee I will be ever grateful ! 

Eteocles. Depart. 

PoLYNiCES. *I go, but fufier me to have the confolation of 
feeing my father once more. 

Eteocles. I will not. 

Pol YN ICES. Let me embrace my fiiler» at leail. 

Eteocles. Thou (halt never fee them more. 

Polyni<:e6. Oh my loved fifters! 

Eteocles. How ! art thou not their moft cruel enemy ? 

PoLYNiCEs. Mother, farewel ; m^yft thou be ever happy. 

Joe AST A. Alas, my miferies have reached their utmoK heighth ! 
oh my dear fon ! 

PoLYNi£ES. J am no longer thy fon. 

Joe ASTA. Ah ! to what new miieries am I then referved ? 

PoLYNicEs. Thus loaded by him with indignities, I am vn^-^ 
worthy of that name. 

JocASTA. It is I only who am outraged. 

PoLYNicEs to Eteocles. Which is thy poft? 

Eteocles. Why doft thou afk ? 

PoLYNiCES. Becaufe there thou flialt fee me. 

Eteocles. 'Tis what I wifh. 

* Wc are obliged to Barnes for this verie> but it is clear that Dolce had feen it before 
who reflored it at firil by conjedture, after- him. Qe tranflated it tfauf : 
jpfards upon the authority of a manufcript; 

^* Noo poflb 
" Non obedirti a queihi volta : bf ne 
" Ti vo pregar the mi t oteda, ch'ip 
" Vcgga mio padre" 



JocASTA. Oh, wretched mother that I am! Alas, my fons* 
what is your fatal purpofe? 

Eteocles. That will foon be known. 

Joe A ST A. Do you intend to fulfil the fatal imprecations of 
your father ? 

PoLYNiCBS. Perifli our whole race ! 

Eteocles. Yes, when this fword £hall ceafe to bathe itfelf in 

Polynices. Oh, thou my native land, I take thee, as well as the 
Gods to witnefs, that I am unjuftly deprived of the rank of a king'^ 
fon, and.baniihed like a Have ! If thou art overthrown by this ani>, 
impute it not to me, but to him who is the only author of all thy 
misfortunes. My enterprizc is as involuntary as my exile is un- 
juft. Oh Apollo, friends, altars, receive my farewel ! I quit you 
now perhaps never more to behold you : yet furely no. The 
Goddeflesof Hope fmile on me; and the juft Gods will affift me to 
force the fceptre froixi an ufurper, although at the price of his 

Eteocles. Depart. 

Accordingly, the two brothers feparate in a manner that may- 
be eaiily imagined after the conversation we have read. Jocafla 
retires overwhelmed with forrow, and the Chorus remain to fing 
the Interlude; in which, if the expreffion may be allowed, they 
defcribc the birth of Thebes. This might appear cold and unin- 
terefHng, if we did not reflcft that it enters naturally into the fub- 
je<a, being contrafted with the fall of this city, which throughout 
the whole piece they reprefent as imavoidable. 

ACT in. 

Eteocles returns, and looks about for one of his officers to fend 
in fearch of Creon, when this prince, who was likewife enquiring 
for him, enters. The qucftion now is, in what manner they fhall 
fupport the fiege. 

Creon informs the young king that adeferter is come intoThebes> 
who brings advice that the Argives intend to inveft and attack 
the city at the fame time on all fides. Eteocles, by a natural emo- 
tion, which marks the impetuofity of hischarader, refolves to fight 
without the walls, and promifes that he will put all to fire and 
fword. Creon, like an experienced man, endeavours to reftrain 
his youthful ardor, and gives him to underftand that the Argive 
army, being very numerous and compofed of brave foldiers, he 
2 ought 


ought to be cautious how he hazarded a decifive a(9:ion; whldh if 
he fhould be vanquifhcd, would leave him no farther rcfource* 

The king propofcs to fall upon the enemy in the night, which 
we call a camifado. Creon difapprovcs of this propofal alfb, as 
dangerous, and of no ufe, Eteocles then fays, he will engage thera 
with the whole force of his cavalry. This projcft is alfo rejefied, 
** What is to be done, then^ ftiall I give up the city ?" anfwers the 
impatient prince, ** No, replies Creon, but the enemies have fe- 
•* ven chiefs, who arc all at the fame time to attack the feven gates 
^* of Thebes. Let us fupport the alTault within our walls, ana op- 
** pofe to the befiegcrs feven warriors alike diflinguifhed for their 
^* prudence and valour; foroneof thefe qualities without the other 
*^ will be of little ufe." Thefe are the feven chiefs of Efchylus. 

If we examine thisfcene a little cloler, wc (hall find that Euripi- 
des has here aflxoke of fatire againft his prcdeceffor, which is de- 
licate enough. '* I will go, fays Eteocles, and chufe out thefe fe« 
^^ ven warriorsj and appoint tnem their feveral pofts: to name 
** them all would be to lofe time, while the enemy is at our gates."* 
Efchylus employs a whole fccne in regulating the pofts of thefe 
feven heroes, whom he oppofes to thofe of the enemy; whofe 
names and charaders are alio related by an officer, without for- 
getting even the devices and mottos of their armour, which he 
defcribes at length. 

But Efchylus however has the advantage of Butipides in the 
fpeech he puts into the mouth of Eteocles when he goes to battle. 
In Euripides this prince makes a kind of will in cafe of his death, 
and leaves the crown to Creon, recommending Jocafla and his 
iifters to his care. With regard to Oedipus, he only fays coldly, that 
his father had drawn his misfortunes upon himfelf; and that he 
was not to be pitied, fince it would not be his fault if the curfes he 
had laid on his fons were not fulfilled. 

This is a ftrange fentiment to be avowed by a fon, although it 
is the poet's defign to render him odious. He remembers alfo, 
that he has not required an oracle of Tirefias, as was the cuftom; 
and he orders Creon to confult him, which he dare not do himfelf; 
becaufe he has enraged this prophet, he fays, by openly defpifing 
his predidtions. But why then it may be afked, does Eteocles have 
recourfe to thofe oracles which he holds in contempt? This feems 
a little ftrained; but the reafon is, that Tirefias had threatened thefe 
ungrateful fons with the indignation of the Gods for their treat- 
ment of their unhappy father. Thefe words therefore fhew the 
4 im- 

THE P H E N I C I A N S. 361 

impious charafter of Etcocles in a ftrongcr light. Laftly, at the 
remembrance of Polynices, his implacable hatred (hews itfelf in 
forbidding Creon to allow funeral honours to his brother ; and 
makes it death for any of his fubjefts to difobey him on this article : 
a terrible decree, which ferves as a prediftion for another "epiftle. 

While the king calls for his armour and departs, the Chorus 
deplore the horrors of war, and the fatal confequences of difcord 
between brothers. They recount anew all the crimes with which 
the family of Oedipus^ were polluted. Mean time, Meneceus, the fon 
of Creon, who had beenfent by his father to fetch Tirefias, arrives, 
leading the old blind prophet by the hand. Euripides reprefents 
him loaden with .years and infirmities, and in a manner which we 
would think too low for tragedy. Tirefias had been abfent from 
Thebes fome time; he was but juft returned from the city of 
Athens, which he had rendered vidtorious over a powerful enemy: 
therefore Creon relates to him in few words the* occafion of the 
war with which Thebes was threatened, and requires an oracle. 
The prophet confents to give him one, not to oblige Eteocles, but 
Creon ; and begins to explain himfelf with the dignity fuitable 
to his charadler, and the veneration all Greece paid him. The 
fenfe of his fpeech is, that the Gods were refolved in the pcr- 
fon of Oedipus, to give a dreadful example to the Greeks, that his 
children were defirous of burying him in oblivion, by concealing 
the miferable prince from the eyes of the world, as if they were 
able to deceive the Gods, a complicated crime againft heaven ; and 
their father. " What have I not done, what have I not faid, pur- 
«' fues he, to recal them to their duty ! Inftead of prevailing upon 
** them by my counfels, I have drawn their hatred upon me; but 
^* death purfues them, death by each other's hand : they will fall 
'* furrounded with dying warriors. Thebes (hall long lament this 
** miferable day. Oh wretched Thebes ! I fee thee tottering on 
^* the brink of ruin. Such is thy deftiny : to have been happy, 
«* the fons of Oedipus fhbuld have been neither thy citizens nor 
** thy kings : a race accurft, whofe fate it is to ruin thee. But 
^* fince thou haft not been able to avoid this misfprtune, one re- 
*' fource alone remains ; but I am filent. It fuits not me to pro- 
** pofe a remedy fo fhocking. I go, farcwel ! Alas ! what have 
<* I to lofe by being involved in the general deftrudlion of the 
«* Thebans." 

Creon, eager to know what the prophet is defirous of conceal- 
ing from him ftops him as he is preparing to retire. The prophet 
Vol. II. A a a re-» 


refufes to explain himfelf; but at length feeming to be overcome 
by Crcon's importumties, he confents to declare the fecret, provi- 
ded Mencceus is not prefcnt. Crcon, depending upon the prudence 
of his fon, infifts npon his flay, and Tirefias Tuffers the dreadful 
myftery to efcape him. '** If thou v^rouldft fave Thebes, fays he, 
*• thou muft facrificc thy fon Meneccus/* The aftoniflied fa- 
ther makes him repeat the horrid words. " No, cries he." After- 
wards, *• I will not underftand thee." He repents his having 
demanded an oracTe, but it is now too late, the fatal decree is 
pronounced. He has recourfc to intreaties ; a feeble barrier a- 
gainft a prophet, who having once declared himfelf threatens 
Creon, if he does not comply, to publlih the fentence of the Gods, 
Creon requires to know at kaft upon what grounds the Gods de- 
mand the life of his (on; and Tirefias to fatisfy him, goes back as 
far as the hiftory of Cadmus, This fon of Agenor when he arri- 
ved in the land of Thebes, fent his companions to draw water 
from the fountain of Dirce. This fountain was kept by a furi- 
ous dragon> who devoured them. Cadmus killed the dragon; and 
by the advice ^ Pallas, fowed his teeth in the earth, from which, 
inftantly a great number of warriors were produced^ who turned 
thetr arms againft each other, and all were flain except five^ who 
aiTifted C^Khnw to btiild the city of Thebes. 

This fable being the fiibjeA of the Chorus, and introduced as 
an ornament into the body of the tragedy, I thought it necelfary to 
give it here in as few words as poffime. It may be feen at length 
in the ithird book of Ovid*5 Metamorphofes. The dragon having 
been under the prote<5lion of the God Mars, ** This Deity, fays 
*• Tirefias, was refolved to revenge his death by the blood of one 
" of the princes descended from die warriors produced by his teeth." 
Now Meneceus was the laft of this race ; he was unmarried : in ^ 
word, he was the viGim demanded by Mars ; and the dragon's den 
muft be fprinkled with his blood. . Thefe arguments were thought 
unanfwerable by the ancient fuperftition ; therefore Creon has no- 
thing to urge in favour of his fon, the viftim being fo plainly point- 
ed out. Tirefias leaves him in the fad neceflity either of facrifi- 
<:ing his fon, or of fuffering Thebes to perifli. 

Creon, fcarce recovering from that torrent of overwhelming 
grief which had oppreft him, difplays all the tender and mourn- 
ful fentiments of a father, upon the point of lofing a beloved fon. 
He cannot refolve to ddiver him; he would rather die himfelf, 
and to prevent the tumult which this oracle may create, he com* 


T^H E P H E N I C I A N S- 363 

mands Meneceus to fly inftantly far from Thebes. The young 
prince feems to confent to this propofal, and only defires time to 
take leave of Jocafta. It would feem. that Creon is too ready to 
believe his foil will confent to this flight ; and befides, it is diffi- 
cult enough to effedt it, the city being furrounded with enemies. 
However that may be, Creon is fcare gone when Meneceus declares 
to the Chorus, that it was to deceive the forrow of his father that 
he feigned to yield obedience to his orders. *^ Happy fliratagem ! 
" fays he. Creon would deprive Thebes of its only refource. This 
" may be pardonable in a father; but fliould I be excufable if I 
*' betrayed my country ! know then that I go to be your deliverer; 
** and to facrifice myfclf for the Thebans." Accordingly he- 
departs determined to throw hinafelf from the top of the walls to - 
wards the cave of the dragon, after wounding himfelf firfl:, that it 
may be fprinkkd with his blood. " My life, fays he, is the only 
** good I can befliow upon my country : is it pofliblc to make 
*^ it a mcwe falutaiy or more precious prefent ? happy that repub- 
" lie whofe citizens all concur in their endeavours for the prefcr- 
** vation of their country !" 

This is a kind of epifode, or fubordinate action, which is rarely 
found in ancient tragedy. The Greek poets were of opinicm that 
Oedipus prevented the efifeft of theprincipal action; and indeed how- 
ever they may be managed^ they turn aflde the attention of the audi-* 
ence^ at leafb they divide it, and rob tragedy of that beautiful flmpli- 
city which is fo capable of pleafing in itfelf. However, thi^ epi- 
fode of Earipides, although a little forcedr wilUjuftify thofe of our 
owa time, if they w«re not carried much farther than his; and if 
they did not almoft always tiira upon love. 

This facrifice of Meneceus recals to the Chorus the idea of the 
Sphinx, who hzd often been gorged with human blood ; and na-* 
tnrally reminds them of die great fervice Oedipus did the ftate by 
delivering it from this monfler. The generofity of Meneceus, who^ 
in fttdiearlji youth runs voluntarily to death for the prefervation 
of his fellow citizens, makes like wife a beautiful part of the^ in- 
terlude. It muft be confefTed that the poet has fhewn great judg- 
ment in^ giving this young prince fo much prefence of mind as to 
conceal his intention from his father ; and fb much courage and-' 
refolution as to go to death, without any other witn«flfe& of this vo- 
luntary facrifico' than the Chorus: but even the prefence of the* 
Cbef4t» here may bcr t h o ught im proper ; for is itnatra-ai that th6y 
would fuflfer him tafecrifere himfelf without' informing Creorr at 

J^a 2 Icafl: 


lead of his defign ? Yes, certainly; becaufe this Chorus are foreigners, 
who on account of their alliance with Thebes, and their own fitu- 
ation, were more interefted in the public good, than in the particu- 
lar happinefs of Creon. In tragedies divefted of the Chorus, as 
the manner is now, the poet on fuch an occafion, muft have had 
rccourfe to a foliloquy, or to fome confidant ; which would have 
been more perplexing, and lefs animated. But, is it natural ahb, 
that a great and illuftrious adlion (hould be performed without 
any witnefs to it ? no one who underftands the drama will pre- 
tend to fay that the audience are witnefles; yet this is fuppofed 
in pradkice. How (hall we excufe this contradiction ? 

A C T IV. 

A meflenger comes in great hafte to acquaint Jocafta with the 
iituation of affairs between the two armies. She comes out of 
the palace ; and the folicitude of a mother for her children, and a 
queen for the ftate, produces here a very fine effect : fheisinfhuitly 
informed that both the princes are fafe; and that the Thebans are 
vidorious. The attention is thus kept up with great art. ** It 
" is the death of Meneceus, fays the mefTengcr, which has procu- 
** red the Thebans this fuccefs: for after this facrifice, Eteocles 
'' ppfted the feven chiefs as he had defigned : he diflributed the 
'^ bodies of horfe to fupport the infantry. Immediately the ene- 
** mies advanced towards the extremity of the trenches : the 
'< trumpets founded on both fides. Pathenope, Amphiaralis, Hyp- 
'* pomedon, Polynices, Tydeus, Capaneus, and Adraflus, the fo- 
" ven chiefs of tne enemy's army, conunanded each the attack of. 
** a gate." The meflenger having named them defcribes after- 
wards the armour of each, with their devifes in a manner little dif- 
ferent from Efchylus *. I thought it neceflary to abridge this des- 
cription in both poets, there being nothing in it very intereiling 
to us. It is fufficient to give fbme idea of it; and to obferve cafu- 
ally, that this fcene of Euripides feems to be better managed in 
the recital than that of Efchylus in the adtion ; although the latter 
has its beauties, in that, Efchylus (hews Eteocles difpofing the 
order of battle, and diflributing the pofts of his warriors before 
the eyes of the audience. 

" At firfl, continues the meffenger, we made ufe of the bow, 
*« the fling, and flones which we forced out of the walls. The 

• See the Seven Chiefs at the fiege of Thebes. V. II. A&JJL 


T H E P H E N I C I A N S. 365 

" befieged had the advantage; when Tydcus and Polynices cry- 
" ing out that a general aflault muft be made, the battle grew 
" fiercer, and many fell on both fides." Here the meflenger gives 
a circumftantial account of the adion, after the manner of Homer. 
As this is an ancient fiege, we will give one example from it : ** Ca- 
*^ paneus, fixing a ladder to the walls, fwore that the thunder itfelf 
*' (hould not hinder him from taking the city. He mounts the 
" ladder amidft a ftiower of ftones, which he guarded againft by 
•* covering himfelf with his (hield. Already he had reached the 
** battlement, when Jupiter fuddenly ftruck him with his thun- 
" der, and the earth trembled in a moft dreadful manner. ' The 
** unhappy warrior was torn in pieces ; his hair was carried aloft 
** by the winds; his blood dreamed upon ^e earth; his mangled 
" limbs were toft on each fide; and his burning carcafe was feen tQ 
'* fall like a whirlwind. In a word, he feemed another Ixion upon 
^^ the wheel. Adraftus, perceiving that Jupiter was againft him» 
•' caufed the aflfailants to retire from the trenches, &c/' 

The mefienger adds, that the befieged, encouraged by this mi* 
racle, made a fudden fally with the cavalry. '^ They fell upon the 
** enemy; they broke their chariots of war; they covered the 
^' plain with dead bodies, and delivered Thebes/' 

In this recital, which is very long, the adiivity ofEteocles is^ 
well defcribed : he feems to be- every where at once : he fend^ 
fuccours wherever they are neceflfary. The confufion among the 
troops of the enemy, their broken chariots, and heaps of dead,, 
are reprefented alfo with great fpirit and livelinefs. 

Jocafta,upon this news, feels transport worthy of her charadter as a 
queen and mother* The ftate is preferved, and her fbns ftill live > 
but (he pities Creon, who has fo dearly purchafed the lafety of 
Thebes. Being defirous to know the confequence of this adion,. 
and the laft refolutions of Eteocles and Polynices^ the officer, 
fays to her, •* Enquire no more, great princefs ; hitherto every 
*' thing is favourable to thee/' Thefe ambiguous words give 
new force to Jocafta's curiofity ; (he prefles the meflfenger to ex- 
plain himfelf. ** What wouldft thou have more ? anfwers he,. 
** both the princes thy fons are alive." 

JocASTA. I would know in one word, if the event of this bat- 
tle be as fortunate as the battle itfelf. 

Messenger. Suffer me, oh queen ! to depart. Eteocles has oc- 
cafion for me. 



The meflcnger in vain forms pretences for not faying more. Jo- 
cada forces him to declare all he knows ; and at length he con- 
feifcs that the two princes have refolvcd to decide their quarrel by 
a lingle combat. •* Eteocles, purfues he, appeared on the top erf 
*' the walls; and commanding iilence, fpoke in thefe terms: Yc 
♦* brave warriors who are in arms againft me, and you, ye The- 
** bans, hear me. Be no longer thus prodigal of your lives in fa- 
" vour either of Polyniccs or me. I will fight fingly with my 
'* brother; if he dies by my hand, I (hall reign unrivalled, and if I 
" am vanquifhed I will yield him the throne. Stay not oh, Argives, 
'* to pcrifhhere, but return into your native country! and you, oh 
•* Thebans, have already flied blood enough for me!'* 

Polynices eagerly accepted this propofal, which was applauded 
with the loud acclamations of both armies. A truce was imme- 
diately agreed to ; and in the midft of the two camp^, the chief on 
both fides fwore to obiGstve conditions (b juft and fo reafenable. 
*The two princes now prepared for fight: the Thebans furround- 
ed Eteocles, to arm him in fteel; while the Argives did the fame 
office for Polynices. The brothers appeared unmoved in each 
other's prefence: clad in (hining armour, they burned with equal 
ardor for the combat. The warriors on both fides exhorted them 
to fupport their f^pae. ** Oh Polynices 1 faid the Argives, the 
^* honour of Argos is in thy hands : it belongs to thee to credt a 
" ftatue to Jupiter, for a monument of thy glory." " Go^ brave 
^ Eteocles, faid the Thebans, go, and remember that thou fighteft 
** for thy country : that thou haft conquered ; and that thou art a 
<* king. Thus did they animate them for the combat : mean tiifle 
*' the priefts were employed in cwifulting the intrails of the vie- 
** tims, the flames, and other auguries; from whence they judged 
*' of the fuccefs of the combat. As for diee, oh queen ! if thou 
" haft any rcfource in thy own prudence, or in the arts of en- 
«* chantment, hafte to the field, and diifuade the princes from this 
" horrid fight. Thou art upon the point of lofing two fons in 
^ one day. Oh, hafte then tq then* ! to them the danger iscertain^ 
*^ and to thee the victory of either muft be fatal T 

Jocaftaj without anfwering- the meflfengcn who has perhaps too 
Jong delayed to tell -herof a circumftance fo important, feitde for 
Antigone. This princefs enters, full of'grief and terror: Jocaftain- 

* One might fay that Menelaus and Paris are here preparing for fight. Tliftt thi^ 
irhole defcription is an imitation of the third book of the Jliid* 



jforms her that her two brothers are preparing to murder each 
other. ^^ Let us go, feys ihe> let as thfoW ourfelves at their feet." 
Antigone, before flbe is fully iftfofnved of \Mhat is paffing, makts 
fame fcnapde to appear within view of the two camps : fuch was 
the modcfty and decorum of thofe times, of which the Greek poets 
give us frequent examples. But as foon as the princefs hears that 
there is not a moment to be loft, and that all is delperate, unlefs 
flie flies to het bmthers, flhie is the firft to prefe the queen her mother 
to make no delay. Jocafta, in her turn, urges her to follow^ her 
with hafty fteps. " For ihould wie delay ever fo little, fays fhe, wc 
** are loft ; and thou wilt bebc^d me expire upon the bodies of 
« thy brothers." 

The Phenician virgins redouble the concern and curiofity of the 
fpe£tators, by exclamations of terror and grief, which exprefs the 
fentiments of the people.. ** Oh moft unhappy mother ! oh 
«* wretched folisl which of the two will be bathed in the blood of 
** his brother ? which of them afe we to lament ! Thefe excla- 
" mations and many others are more lively and affe<fting than it is 
•* pofiihle to reprefent in our language. 

A C T V. 

In this ai£t Creon appears lamenting the death of his ion, whofe 
fad remains he brings to Jocafta, to receive the honours of a fune* 
ral. He enquires for thb princeis : but the Chorus acquaint him 
with the ftrange combat between Eteocles and Polynices, and the 
departure of Jocafta and Antigone ; who are gone to throw them* 
fl^ves between their fwords. 

Immediately afterwards a meflenger enters. Grief is impreft on 
hi« countenance,. and his very air declares the mutual death of tlie 
^o princes. Crepn, and the Chorus (carce recover from the 
aftooifhment to which this news throws them, when the meflenger 
adds, that Jocafta alfo is dead. Here he refumes the narration 
which he had left off in the preceding adt : ** Thou knoweft, fays 
*' he, the vidlory we gained upon thsc walls; no one here can be- 
** ignorant of what paflcd io near him.'* 

But how tbeuy it may be aflced, does it happen that Crcon is ig- 
norant of the Angle combat between the two brothers? forheisfup- 
pofcd to know nothing of it, although he is but juft come from ^ 
the cave of the dragon, from whence he bore the carcafe of his 
ion. This feems to be a fault which Euripides has committed/ ia 
order to avoid another; namely, that of repeating the hiftory of 

5 *^ 


thc'ficge to Crcon, who had not heard it; or» of omitting the con- 
fequences which followed it. If the ancients were guilty of any errors 
of fort» it was owing to their extreme nicety in making their adors 
come and go with propriety : a circumftance which is very little 
attended to in our days. But in juflification of Euripides, it 
may be fuppofed that Creon had his mind fo wholly employed 
upon his fon's death, that after he had been an eye- witnefs of the 
victory of the Thebans, he was little (blicitous about what follow- 
ed, which was the fingle fight between Eteocles and Polynices. 

** After the two princes were armed, continued the meflengcr, 
" they advanced to meet each other l)etween the two armies, and 
" prepared to begin the combat with their lances. Then Polyni- 
" ces turning towards Argos, Goddeft of the Argives, faid he, oh 
** venerable Juno, I am now under thy protection; my marriage 
" with the daughter of Adraftus, and the retreat he gave me in his 
** palace, which was my afylum, are my fureties for this protection; 
'^ grant that I may fubdue my brother; and that his blood may 
** dye my viftorious hands! Alas! too well I know that the con- 
*' queft I implore of thee is impious and difgraceful; but it is ne- 
** ccflary." Thefe words drew tears from the eyes of the foldiers ; 
they looked one on another, and lamented the cruel neceffity to 
which Polynices was reduced, either of dying himielf, or of giving 
death to his brother. As for Eteocles, he turned towards the tem- 
ple of Pallas. ** Oh daughter of Jupiter, cried he, grant that this arm 
" may throw the lance into the bofom of a brother who comes to 
** fprcad defolation throughout my country and his own. That in- 
^« ftant the blaze of the torch was feen, the fignal for this unnatu- 
«' ral combat." 

A lighted torch was the fignal for battle, before trumpets were 
in ufe; yet Euripides joins both thefe fignals together in the ^cgm 
of Thebes. A priefl crowned with laurel bearing a lighted torch 
in his hand, ufed to walk before the army in the heat of battle t 
he was almofl always fpared by the enemy. From hence came 
the ancient proverbial manner of expreffing a total defeat : Even 
the torch'-bearer bimfelfivas not fpared. And hence, perhaps, came 
the cuflom of reprefenting difcord with lighted torches. 

" The two champions, proceeds the officer, flew to meet each 
" other ; and like two boars who fharpen their tufks, they foam 
<< with rage, and each in the fame moment attack, and is attacked/' 
Here hedefcribes with great fimplicity, the double combat. *' They 
** begin with the lance; they covered themfelves with their large 


THE P H E N I C I A N S, 369 

'« bucklers^ and endeavoured by turns to wound each other in fome 
*' unguarded ph^." The roeflenger adds, that the fpedlators wrapt 
in attention, were- more agitated than the combatants themlelves. 
** Bteocles, fays he, happening to flip his foot, and his /hield fall- 
*' ing afide, he received a ftroke, which raifed a joyful fhout 
** among the Argives. Polynices, in his turn, left part of his body 
** uncovered by his buckle^, and felt himfelf wounded, and then 
*' the Thebans triumphed ; but Bteocles, breaking his lance with 
** this ftroke, retired a few paces back, and heaving up a large 
** ftone hurled it at Polynices fo luckily that he broke his lance 
** likewife. The combat now became equal again ; they drew 
*' their fwords, and eagerly approached each other; their bucklers 
*' refounded with the blows they gave and received. But Eteocles 
** had recourfe to a Theflalian artifice/* The fcholiafls then 
painted the Theflalians as they have fince done all the Greeks, 
*' He drew back his left foot, and advancing his right, ftooped al- 
** moft to the ground, and plunged his fword into thebelly of his 
^* brother. Polynices fell, almoft drowned in his own blood, 
** JEteocles, fuppofing he had conquered, threw away his fword, and 
" imprudently drew near his enemy to feize his fpoils, when Po- 
*' lynices coUeding all his remainining ftrength fuddenly thruft his 
'* fword into the boibm of Eteocles. Both lav extended on the 
** field biting theduft; both conquered and botn were conquerors/' 

Creon, with fighs, obferves that the imprecations of Oedipus 
have been fulfilled- " The two princes, continues the meffenger, 
«* were juft fallen, when their wretched mother, accompanied by her 
/' daughter, appeared. At the fight of her fons bathed in their blood, 
" Oh too tardy fuccours ! cried (he; then throwing herfelf befide 
** them, fhe wept over them by turns. Ah, my dear brothers, ex- 
*' claimed Antigone, is it thus then that you abandon a mother 
" and a fifter? Eteocles, who now fcarce. breathed, opened? his 
" eyes ; he knew the queen, apdofFerin£ her his bloody hattd, ex- 
^[ preflfedhis forrow and his reoigrfe by his tears. His brother al- 
" fo perceiving the queen and princefs, faid, 'tis done, I die, my 
** only grief is, for the condition in which I leave a mother and 
•* a fiiler; and even my perfidious brother: for alas! this enemy 
" is ftill dear to me. I beg of you as a laft favour, that you will 
*' not refufe me a tomb in my native country j and that you will 
** appeafe ofiFended Thebes: the honour ot a ton[ib in tne The- 
** ban territory will recompenfe me for the crown which 1 have 
♦« loft:. Oh, my mother, kt thy hands clofe my eyes! He hirofelf 

VoL.U, Bbb "laid 


«* laid the hand of Jocafta upon his eyes : farcwcit faid he, with a 
" dying voice, the (hades of death involve me. Tliat inftant, they 
"both expired. Jocafta in filence beheld thefe horrors; then 
•* drawing the fword out of the bofom of Eteocles, (he plunged it 
** in her own, and fell upon the bodies of her fons, which (he held 
^' cloie embraced/* 

The meflengcr concludes this long narration, with infbrming^ 
Creon of the difbute which arofe between the Argives and the 
Thebans, each fide claiming the vi6lory, in right of the prince 
whofe interefts they had e(pou(ed. From words, he fays, they pro- 
ceeded to blows; and the Argives were put to flight, with the lois 
of fix hundred men. 

Immediately afterwards, the bodies of Jocafta, Eteocles, and 
Polynices, are brought upon the ftage. Antigone returns without a 
veil, and her hair di(hevelled : the fight of thefe bodies, which 
flie had caufed to be brought from the field, throws her into thct 
deepcft defpair. Her grief breaks out in (hort exclamations, in^ 
terrupted with fighs and groans ; and her fituation (peaks more: 
than her tong'ue: (he calls even upon things inanimate to (hare 
her forrows ; then gazing on the bodies, ** Upon which of them^. 
•* fays (he, (hall I firft (pread this hair which I tear off? upon the- 
** bleeding bo(bm of my mother, or the barbarous wounds of my 
•^ brothers ? Oh Oedipus ! come out, come out of thy darkdwelling.** 

Oedipus appears, " Why haft thou recalled me to the Uffhti^ 
** my daughter, fays he, the light which I (hall never more be** 
*' hold? Why haft thou forced me to leave my tomb, I who am 
«' now but a phantome ? Thou haft no longer eithei; a wife 
^ or fons, anfwers Antigone : with grief 1 fay it, and . not 
*' to aggravate thy woes ; thy fatal genius has ruihed upoa 
<* them, and urged them to their ruin." Oedipus fighs, groans^ 
and weeps. **^ Ah ! what would thy forrows be, refumes the prin-* 
•^ cefs, if thou couldft behold their bodies extended on the earth?" 
She then recounte in few wordsj but elbqueatly, in what man- 
ner they peri(hed; and the Chorus wi(h that at leaft a day (b full 
of horrors for the family of Oedipus may be. tha laft of their un- 
happy days:, but Creon appears, to plunge them, into new mis^ 

He declares himfelf kihg of Thebes^ according to the laft. 
will of Eteocles : he refolve^ diat his (on. Htmoa (hall efpoufe 
Antigone; and that Oedipus (hall go into bani(hment. Tirefias, 
adds he, a(rures U8«, that unlefs Oedipus is banKhed^ Thebes (h$tU 

7; acvct 

T H E P H E N I C I A N S. 371 

never enjoy a durable peace) and it is with regret that I comply 
with this oracle. ** Oh deftiny, exclaims Oedipus ! fure no mor- 
** tal'was ever born under more horrid aufpiccs !" Here he enu- 
merates all his misfortunes; the oracle delivered before his birth ; 
the manner in which he was expofed upon Mount Cytheton ; the 
cruel fervice that was rendered him in faLving his life ; the murder 
x)£ his father ; his marriage with his mother ; his blindnefs ; his 
imprifonment; the mi{erable deaths of JocaAa» and his two fons^ 
and all this terminated by a banishment more cruel than death it- 
felf. *• From whom (hall he procure that affiftance neceffary to 
" fupport a wretcned being? who will be his guide? who will 
*rtakc care of his life ? Jocafla would have done it, but (he is no 
** more/' He reproaches Creon with his barbarity ; but far from 
defcending to mean fupplications: he declares that he will not 
bend the knee to a tjrrant and that till his death he will main** 
tain the dignity of a king. 

The new king, under pretence of obferving the ftri<fteft juftice, 
carries his tyrannous feverity ftill farther : he commands that the 
body of Polynices fhould be caft out of Thebes, without giving it 
fepulchral honours ; becaufe he came againfl: his country with fire 
and fword : he even forbids the burying it, under pain of death. * 

Antigone, reduced to defpair by thefe laft ftrokes of fate, which 
feem to her more cruel than all the former, forgets for a mo- 
ment the dear dead, to weep for a father, who is more to be pitied 
than them- " Ah, my father ! cries ftie, thou art a perfect mo* 
" del of mifery ; other mortals (hare aportion of it, thou only beared 
«* the whole weight." Then turning to Creon, (he afks him what 
right he has to refufe a fepulchre to Polynices ? Here follows a 
very warm debate between the princefs and Creon. She declares, 
that although all Thebes (hould oppofe her, yet (he will bury her 
brother. *' Bury thyfelf with him then," fays the king. She in- 
treats, (he threatens, but all in vain; Creon is in(iexible: he 
alledges the command of Etcoclcs, and the will of the Gods. 

In order to comprehend how far the ancients carried their paf* 
(ion, if the term may be allowed, for the honour of a tomb in their 
native country, we need only read what the princefs fays in this 
(bene, to obtain leave of the tyrant to bury her brother. 

Antigone. How dareft thou point the laws againft one who 
is dead ? , 

Creon. It was Eteocles who pronounced the fentencc; it is 
my part to execute it. 

B b b 2 An- 

372 T H E P ta E N I C I A N S, 

Antic. The fentence is unjuft; it is unjuft to pay any^ regard 
to it. 

Creon. How! is it not juft to maintain the laws? 
Antig- Not when thofe laws are ty annical. 
Creon. Is it tyrannical to punifli Polynices ? 
Antio. It is. 

Creon. He was an enemy to his country. 
Antig. Chance, and his own ill fortune, forced him to be fb; 
and death is the confequencc of it. 

Creon. And the want of a tomb (hall be his punifliment. 
Antig. He profecuted a juft claim. 

Creon. He fliall be puniftied for doing fo. It is my will, and 
I ordain it. 

Antig. And I will bury him, although all Thebes Ihould op- 
pcrfe me. 

Creon. Bury thyfelf with him then. 

Antig. It will be my glory to fufier for my afiedtion to my 

Creon. Guards, feize her, and bear her to the palace. 
Antig. In vain doft thou attempt it; I will not quit this 
dear body. 

Creon. I pardon thefe tran/ports, in confideration of thy fcx; 
but know ii that is a decree of the Gods, which I am refolved to 

Antig. The Gods decree that the dead (hall not be infultcd. 
Creon. It is their will, that not even a little duft fhould be caft 
over his body. 

Antig. Alas, prince ! I conjure thee, fufFer me to bury my bro- 
ther. Grant this requeft for the fake of Jocafta, thy lifter, and 
my ciother. 

Creon. Fruitlefs intreaties ! my refolution is fixed. 
Antig. Permit me only to wafti his body. 
Creon. It muft not be. 
Antig. Let me but bind up his wounds. 
Creon. No honours muft be paid to a traitor. 
Antig. Oh, my dear brother! I ftiall at leaft be allowed the 
fatisfadtion of embracing thee. 

Creon. No, trouble not with this unfea(bnable mourning, the 
marriage with which I intend to honour thee. 

Antig. With which thou wilt honour me, tyrant! doft thou 
think me bale enough to efpoufe thy fon ? 


T H E P H E N I C I A N S. 373 

Creon* Intercft and neceffity will oblige thee to it. 

An TIG* The night which thou chufeft for this marriage (hall 
produce another Danaide. 

Creon. Oh heaven, what infblence ! 

Antig. Yes, here I vow to pierce the.breaft of the hufband 
♦hou wouWft force on me. 

Creon. And why, ungrateful woman, tloft thou difdain this 
marriage ? , 

Antig. That I may follow an unhappy father into banifli- 

Creon. This ill-timed haughtinefs degenerates into madncfs ! 

Antig. To die with him, if banifliment is too little. 

Creon. Well, go then; I fhall deliver my fon from a fury. 

{He goes out.) 

Oedipus. My daughter, I admire this excefs of tcndernefs; 

Antig. Howl fliall I efpoufe the fon of a tyrant, and aban- 
don the bed of fathers ? 

Oedipus. Live happy, Antigone; I can fupport my miferies 

Antig. And who will take care of thy life ? 

Oedipus. I wait only for death, in whatever place it /hall pleafe 
the Gods to offer it to me. 

Antig. Pardon me, my father ; but in thee I no Jonger know 
that Oedipus who confounded the Sphinx. 

Oedipus. Nor am I longer he ; that day which crowned him 
with fuccefs, caufed all my misfortunes. 

Antig. And fhall his daughter fee them and not partake them 
with him. 

Oedipus. How dilgraceful will it be for a princefs to attend a 
miferable blind father, banifhed from his country 1 

Antig. A haughty princefs may think fo, a daughter will have 
different fentiments. 

Oedipus. Well, be it fo then ; lead me to thy mother: let u» 
take a laft farewel of her. 

Antig. Here fhe is; touch this deat.hand for the kft time. 

Oedipus. Oh mother I oh wretched wife ! 

Antig. All miferies were heaped upon her, death has com- 
pleted them. 

Oed I pus. Where are my fons ? 


374 THE P H E N I C I A N «. 

An TIG. Here they lie* dofe to each other. 
; Oedipus. Guide my trembling hand to their faces. 

An TIG. indulge thy tendernefs, for fons who are no^ no more^ 

Oedipus. Oh! ye ftill 4c&rremain$» oh wretched children of a 
moft wretched fatter I 

Antig. Adieu, my dear Polynices^ be witnefi of my affedtiofv 
and the facrifice I make to thee. 

Oedipus. Daughter, the oracle of Apollo is accompliihed. 

Antig. Haft thou then any new misfortunes to acquaint me 
with ? 

Oedipus. I fhall die an exile at Athens. 

Antig. At Athens I will Athens then dare to receive Oedipus? 

Oedipus. Colona, the facred dwelling of Neptune^ will receive 
me ; there I (hall find an afylum, and a tomb. Let us go then my . 
generous daughter, (ince thou art refolved to be the companion of 
my banifliment, and guide my doubtful ileps. 

The reft Is written withaiimplicity which the Greeks delighted 
in ; but which Would (hock a modern reader. Oedipus a(ks for 
bis ftafiv Antigone gives it himf and marks the place where he 
muft fix it at each ftep, left he fhould ftumble. They both, after 
fbme pathetic refle^ons on their former ha|M>inefs» and their pre- 
fent mifery^ which increase the compaffion of the audience, retire 
to go into banilhniient, and the tragedy condjades. 

This piece is crouded with incidents, but all leading to the fame 
end : it is an aiTemblage of the misfortunes of Oedipus and his 
family. The poet has brought them together, to give greater 
fcope for the paflions of terror and pity, which he aimed at ex- 
citing. ' The laft^aft would feem fuperfluous, like that of the Ajax of 
Sophocles, if we did not remember, that to be denied the honours 
of a funeral, was to the ancients a puniftiment more dreadful than 
death itfelf. Thus the death of their tragic heroes was not a fuf- 
ficient cataftrophe ; the adtion could only be finished by the grant, 
or refufal of a fepulchre. I (hall fay nothing of pther faults, 
. whjch the reader may eithercondemn of excufe, according as he is 
more or lefs prejudiced againft the manner of the ancients. I 
have given a faithful analyfis of this piece; fo that what defeats it 
has may be eafily diicovered : but there are feme things in the 
. ^faanners which cannot be reliHied. 

Eteoctes is indeed criminal by his injuftice, and his ambition; 
and Polynices, ahhough a much !mor« aq^i^ble chara^er, is not 
altogether innocent, fincc he waged war againft his native country. 


T H E P H E N I C I A N S. 375 

The evident injuftice of his brother, which forced him upon it, is 
not a fufiicient excufe for him ; and this is one of thofe delicate 
fituations (o proper to engage the attention, and intereft the paf- 
fions. But mefe brothers, although they had committed no other 
crimes, yet contract a great fliare of guilt by confining Oedipus in 
an obfcurc apartment of the palace j becaufe the refpedt they owed 
to a father ought to have prevailed over every other confideration, 
and even over the fhame and reproach they were apprehenfive of, 
which, vrere their only motives for this treatment of him. 

But what can be faid for Oedipus, Jocafta, and Aotigone, who 
are guifty of involuntary crimes only, and yet are miferable ? \Vhat 
can be faid for Creon, who in excufe for his exceflive rigour, and 
to difguifehis politic hatred, pleads an oracle delivered 1^ I'irefias, 
ind the dying commands of an ufurper? but that we muft enter 
into thefe notions, and thefe manners which appear fo ftrange to 
us J and this cannot always be done, on account of the remotenefs 
of times, and difference of ideas. For,, as in matters that relate to 
imufement, and depend upon tafte, the firft impreffion k very 
ftrong, and inftantly turns to prejudice ; it is therefore natural to 
be (hoclced with ideas vdiich appear Angular; ami which on diat 
account lofe the charms that formerly made fbftrong an impref- 
fion upon the mini However, this piece obtained the prize upon 
Ae Athenian ftage. 

That we may gain a full knowledge of the difference between 
the tafte of Greece and that of other ages, we muft not omit here 
the Thebaid of Seneca^ although more tJianhalf ofit is loft; nor 
that of Raciae^, thof one of his worft tragedies ; nor even that of 
Dolce, notwithftanding it is tranflatcd from the Greek, affd one 
part of Rotrou's, th.c reader having already feen the other. 



H E B A I D, 


•"T^ HIS; piece is come down to us In Co mutilated a flate, and the 

' X - pl^" Seneca purfues is fo different from that of Euripides, 

that I can fay but very little for it. If this plan was natural at 

leaft, we might by the help of conjedture, as with Ariadne's clue, dif- 

cover its intricacies ; but we well know that to be natural was 

not the manner of Seneca. He follows the impulfe of his own 

fiery imagination, whenever it leads him from the right to the left; 

from black to white. There are fome precious remains of ancient 

ilatues, as for example bare trunks only, which by tHeir iituation, 

a fkilful ftatuary would guefs with probability enough, what heroes, 

or what Gods, thofe flatu&s when entire, represented, and in what 

attitudes ; hut it is difficult to venture at any conjecture with re^ 

gardto Seneca's Thebaid; befides, what we have left of it, is filled 

with fuch extravagant rant, to give it its true name, that to feek 

for any connexion or order, would be fruitlefs trouble. After what 

we ji^ve ken of the tragedies of Seneca, I (hall be excuied for this 

fevere criticifm upon him. 

A C T I. 

All that we have remaining of the firft a<ft Is one fcene be- 
tween Oedipus and Antigone * ; in which there are above three 
hundred verfes; but not more than feven or eight of thefe are to 
the purpofe, or lead to the fubjeft of the tragedy. Oedipus, blind, 
appears with his daughter : we do not immediately know why he 
is introduced, but by degrees he difcovers that he is reiblved to go 

* It is erident,'in my opinion, by the extent of other Latin tragedies, that there is 
iMy, I f<w rerfesy and the ode of the Chorus wanting to this ad. 


T H E T H E B A I D. 377 

into a ToliKitaty baniihvntnt^ 'aod to abandon himfelf whollv to 
his dcfpair.: OncxJwfauldimaginc, iby the fituation in which he is 
ihcwn, and by the fexcefe o( his grief, that he had but very lately 
difcovercd himfelf to he the hufband of his mother; otherwife hk 
tranfports would be altogether incxcufable : for grief, when mel- 
lowed by time, cxpreflcs itfelf more nobly, and with a decent calm- 
nefs; However, it muft at leaft be, three or four years lince he 
came to tlic knowledge of hia misfortunes. Oedipus is determined 
to die at any rate; he feeks the, means, and this in a manner fo 
ridiculous, that after having in vain requefted of his afFe(5tioinate 
daughter either fteel, poifop, or that ftie will lead him to the 
top of fome precipice, he concludes that he ought to have recourfe 
to his own hands ; which in an apoftrophc he exhorts to ferve him 
faithfully. But his greateft perplexity is, to determine what part 
of him he fhall fiiA wound, " For, fays he, all of me is guilty." 

" Totiis nocens' fum ; qua voles mortem exige 
" EfFringe corpus^ &c." . 

^* Begin tnen, my arm, wherever thou wilt ; pierce this body 
** with a thoufand wounds; tear out this heart; mangle thefe 
** intrails." Thus he goes on, and concludes at length to begin 
witli his.head r hawiug already torn out his eyes. Certainly all 
this is very pathetic ! Oh Grecian fimplicity ! what art thou be- 
come, under the pen of this Latin wit? 

Oedipus at laft repeats all the cririies he has committed, tb^ re- 
membrance of which, and the grief and remorfe he feels for them,, 
force him to dcfire death, and ends with flightly mentioriing that 
misfortune which is neverthelefs the fubjeft of the tragedy : name- 
ly, the cruel diffention between his two fons, who were competi- 
tors for the throne. He tells us, that one refufed to refign it, and 
the other comes with an army to claim it. Antigone takes occa- 
fion from this to intreat that Oedipus will live to reftore peace to . 
the ftate, and to reconcile his fons. We cannot know whether he 
grants or denies her requeft, for the reft of this ad is loft ; how>- 
ever, we ftiall foon fee this prince appear again upon the fcene. 

The firft thought that offers itfelf to the mind, after reading Eu- 
ripides, is, that the Latin poet was defirous of imitating the Greek 
one, in the fcene where Oedipus appears ; but it k very plain that 
he has fpoi!cd it; and that of an excellent one, he has made a ve- 
ry bad one, by mifpladng it, and by the heightenings he has at- 
tempted io give it^ Euripides makes Oedipus come out of his 

Vol. IL C c c ' prifon 

378 THE T H E B A I D. 

prifon to be witnefs of the dreadful chaftifcments of heaven upon 
his Tons ; and to have his miferies aggravated by a Ibamefdi ba- 
ni(hment. In this fituation Oedipus may and ought to give vait 
to his griefs, which he does with becoming majefty ; but the Latin 
poet opens the fcene with the furious tran(ports of this prince, 
without giving him any new fubjed: for thefc tranfports, if it be 
not^ that at the clofe of them he mentions the divifion between his 
fons, which he knew before, and of which he was perhaps the 
caufe, by his imprecations. Aft^ all, it muft be confefled, that 
thefe Wild fallies are exprefled in the fineft verfes imaginable. 


There are but forty verfes of this a6t prcfcrved. We only fee 
an officer, who comes to inform Oedipus that Polynices has laid 
fiege to Thebes, with an Argive army ; and he intreats him to 
ward 0flF this tcmpeft from the city. " Who I! anfwcrs the prince, 
•* am I a man to hinder crimes, and withhold a barbarous hand 
" from fhcdding kindred blood ? No no, my fons do not degenerate 
** from their father; I know them by thefc deeds." 

'* Me nunc fequuntur, laudo & agnofco lubcns.'* 

He does more» he exhorts them to fhew themfelves worthy of 
fuch a father. 

" Exhortor aliquid ut patre hoe dignum gerant.*^ 

This figure is puihed very far, according to Seneca's manner; for, 
in efFedt, the father animates his fans, as if they were prefent, to 
murder each other. 

«' Agite, O propago clara, generofam indolem 
" Probate faftis, &c. 

*' Frater in fratrem ruat, &cc.** 

This is a very uncommon reprefentation of deipair; and in this 
conj unsure it would be beautiful if it was not extravagant. 


Jocafta enters, to declaim in this ad as Oedipus had done in the 
firft. In this lies Si^neca's power ; all his principal charadcrs are 
orators. The queen is doubtful for which of her fona her heart 
ought to dcclarcitfelf ; for Polynices or for Eteocles ? Both are 
her fims* One claims his right, but claims it at the head of an 




army, which he leads againft his country : the other Is no lefs dear 
to her than his brother ; yet the balance leans towards the former, 
whofe caufe is the jufteft, and who is the moft opprefled ; and (he 
fays, like Sabina, the wife of Horace, in Corneille's tragedy : 

" Je ferai du parti qu'affligera le fort." 

^6 caufa melior Jbrjque deterior trabit 
Inclinat animus femper infirmofavens. . 

Corneille had certainly this fcene of the Latin (ragedy in view 
when he compofed that Ipeech for Sabina ; and the wonder is, 
that Seneca fhould have formed a Corneille, as Euripides has a 

An officer interrupts the queen, to tell her that the two ar- 
mies are upon the point of engaging, if (he does not ufe fbme 
endeavours to reconcile her fons. Jocafta anfwers, that ftie will 
go; but inftead of haftening to prevent the battle, {he continues 
upon the ftage to fpeak fome fine lines which Seneca was refolved 
not to loie. Antigone again intreats her not to delay; and then 
Jocafta remembering that (he has been already prefTed to depart j 
and that there is not a moment to lofe, wifties to be carried by 
the winds, or that fbme griffin would bear her on his wings, that 
fhe may the fooner reach the camp. Accordingly flie runs off like 4 
mad woman, at leaft the officer tells us fo, very plainly. 

•« Vadit furenti fimilis, aut etiam furit." 

He even makes five or fix unfeafonable comparifons, to illuftratq 
his thought. Seven or eight lines follow next, which are ab- 
folutely unintelligible; and which arc apparently out of place, 
and put here by chance : for the fame officer, when he has ^ 
told us that Jocafta flew away like a Bacchanal, adds imme-? 
diately afterwards (and unfortunately the verfes feem connefted) 
that Jocafta had arrived in the middle of the two armies; that 
ftie feparated them inftantly; that the brothers, who were ready 
to engage in fight, held their javelins fufpended ; and that they 
talked of peace; and other circumftances of the like nature, which 
we are fure he could not be fo foon informed of, efpecially fince 
fhe was not tranfported through the air as (he wiflied to be ; and 
that the officer was not fuddenly taken up to the top of a high 
tower to fee all that he relates. After all, however connefted thi§ 
may feem by the difpofition of the verfes, it is fo little by the fenfe, 

C c c 2 that 

38o THE T H E B A I D. 

that it would be unjuft to decide abfolutely upon a piece which is 
evidently mutilated) 'and of which we have very lew fragments 

A C T IV. 

The fifth aft of this tragedy is wanting; and the fourth is not 
more entire or more intelligible than the preceding ones, although 
the verfes follow one another in their natural order. 

Jocafta appears here between her two fons^ at leaft fhe 
fpeaks to both as if they were prefent; but there is only one who 
anfwers, which is Polynices. The queen bids him embrace his 
brother ; he refufes. *• Wilt thou not truft to my faith," fays fhe ? 
** No," replies Polynices. This is a harfti compUment, although 
tortured into a thought which is defigHed to be extremely witty. 

*• Timeo: nihil jam jura naturae valent. 

*' Poft ifta fratrum e:!^empla, ne matri quidem, 

•* Fides habenda eft/' 

" I fear, and my fear is too well founded. Here nature lofes 
«' her rights; and after an example of fuch cruel enmity between 
" brothers, how can one confide even in a mother ?" 

The queen in vain exhorts him to throw off his armour, dnd 
this fhe does by enumerating each part of it. But Polynices is 
obftinate. Jocafta then turns to Eteocles, and endeavours to ob-» 
tain the fame requeft of him, but at firft without fuccefs. She af- 
terwards makes a long fpeech, as different from that in Euripides 
as the whole fcenc is : that is to fay, it is pompous, fwclling, and not 
in the leaft aflfeding. Polynices anfwers her ; but Eteode^ as I 
have before obfcrvcd, fays not a word: this long filence is lurpri- 
fing enough. As for Polynices, he declares that he will rcigrt, 
coft what it will ; and he no othcrwife preferves any part of the 
charafter Euripides, gives him. But that the reader may be bet- 
ter able to form a judgment of this piece, I have given the fenfe 
and the condu<9t of all that remains of the fourth a6l, which is 
undoubtedly the leaft exceptionable, and the beft fupported of any 
in the play, as well by the dignity of fomc of the fentiments, as 
by*the beauty of the yerfification. 

JoCASTA. Turn upon me this hofHle fteel, and thefe flames 
with which you threaten your country. Let both armies fall only 
on Jocafta; enenwf or citizen, it matters not, both ought to plunge 
their fwords into that body which has given brothers to her huf- 
band. Pierce this breaft, fcatter thefe mangled limbs, for I am the 


THE T H E B A I D. 381. 

mother of Polyniccs and Etcocles : yet give me your hands while 
they are ftiil innocent ; a fatal error makes you guilty in fpite of 
yourfelves. Hitherto it is the crime of fortune, and this day you 
fee the horrors of it. You are yet at liberty to chufe or to rejedl it. 
Oh! if filial piety has yet a place in your hearts, grant me the 
peace I implore of you? If crimes only can pleafeyou, a greater 
than any you have vet committed muft enfue. I come to oppofe 
this crime ; but which of you fhall I intreat ? which fhall I firft 
embrace ? my tendernefs is divided between them. One has 
been abfent ; and if their former agreement were to take place, 
the other would foon be fo. It is only then by war that your 
mother can behold you together! Come near, Polynices, the 
mifcries thou haft fufFered in baniflimcnt render thee dearer to 
a mother ; come near,^ my fon, but firft flieath that cruel fword ; 
• fix that javelin in the earth, which is impatient to dart from 
^ • thy hand. This fhield oppofes my embrace, oh quit it ! lay 
afide thy helmet, and fhew thyfelf to thy mother. Why doft 
thou turn aiide thy eyes ? why fo anxioufly view the pofture and 
the arm of Eteocles? I will be thy fhield, my fon, his fword fhall 
not fhed thy blood, till it has firft drawn mine. Why this irrefo- 
lution? canft thou not truft thy mother ? 

PoLYNiCEs. Yes, I acknowledge I fear all : nature here lofes 
her.rights. After an example of fuch cruel enmity between bro- 
thers, can I with prudence even truft a mother? 

JocASTA. Well then, refume thy fword, thy helmet, and thy 
armour, while thy brother lays down his. Eteocles, thou wert 
the caufc of this war, it is thy part to difarm thyfelf firft. 

** Tu pone ferrum, caufa qui es ferri prior.'* 

Oh, if the rage of fight poffcfTes you, I afk but one fhort inter- 
val, one moment to embrace a fon returned from a long exile! fuf- 
fer me to embrace him for the firft, or for the laft time. At Icaft lay 
afide your arm*- while I implore peace of you. Alas! you fear each 
other, and I fear you both; but it is only for yourfelves. Polyni- 
ces, why doft thou refufe to quit this fteel ? enjoy the truce, it de- 
pends on thee. The battle which you both fo eagerly defire, will 
render vidtory fhameful, and a defeat glorious. Thou art afraid 
of being taken at a difadvantage by thy brother! Ah, when treachery 
and crimes are to be committed, he rather the vidlim than the au- 
thor of them: but fear nothing, thy mother will be furety for 
both. Will you then, my fons, give me caufe to envy the blind- 

2 nefs 

382 THE T H E B A I D. 

nefs of your father, which hides thefc horrors from him : am I 
here to difluade you from a crime, or to view it nearer? 

Eteocles has laid down his arms : Ah, Polynices, it is thou then 
to whom I muft addrefs my prayers, or rather my tears ! ♦ I fee thee 
again ; I fee thee, alas ! after fo many ardent prayers to fee thee. 
Thou art then allied to a foreign king ! how many feas, how ma- 
ny dangers have been witnefTes of thy flight! Thy mother has not 
prefidcd at thy marriage, nor adorned thy palace ; nor wreathed 
the hymenial torches ! The father of thy bride, inftcad of treafures, 
inftead of territories, gives thee war for a portion with her : the 
fon-in-law of an enemy, far removed frZ)m thy native country ; re- 
fuged in a foreign kingdom ; thy own unjuftly witheld from 
thee; banifhed without guilt ; all thou wantedft to make thee 
wretched, as Oedipus's was a criminal marriage ; and that thou 
haft completed. Oh, my fon, whom I fee again, after fo long 
an abfcncc ! Oh, my Polynices ! the hope and fear of a fond 
mother : thou whom I have fo often implored the Gods, that I 
might behold again : thou, whofe return may be as fatal to me as 
it was welcome. When fhall I ceafe, cried I, to tremble for him ? 
thou wilt fear for thyfelf, anfwered the Gods, when thou fecft him 
again. Alas! it is too true, Polynices, and war arrive together. 
Oh, my fon 1 turn afide this fword from thy native country, while 
it is not yet wholly criminal: too much guilt has it already 
incurred, by its approach. Alas! my blood freezes in my 
veins when I behold my fons fo near the brink of a dreadful pre- 
cipice. Ah I what is die crime I exped to fee thee commit ? One 
far more inipious than that which thy unhappy father was not a- 
ble to forefee. No, I will not any longer fear that thou wilt com- 
mit it. I will not fee it ; but I am miferable in having lived fo long 
as to be apprehenfive that I fhall fee it. 

My dear fon, I conjure thee by this womb which gave thee birth, 
after fuch agonizing pains; by thy fifters filial piety 5 by the face 
of thy innocent famer, which his own hands has fo cruelly man- 
gled ;' I conjure thee to fpare thy country the flames with which 
thou threateneft it, and turn back thefe fatal colours; even thy re- 
treat will not prevent fome part of thy meditated crime from be- 
ing committed. Thebes has already beheld her fields covered 
with hoftile bands ; fhe has feen her meadows trampled by the 

?*It is probable that Polynices raifes here the Yizor of his helmet at leaft; the 
text giyes u$ to un<}eriland as much. 


THE T H E B A I D. 383 

feet of furious fteeds; fhe has feen thy warriors rolling over them 
in their chariots; fhc has feen torches kindled to reduce ourhou- 
fes to a(hes ; and what was never heard of before, even in Thebes, 
flie has feen two brothers ready to deftroy each other by the fword. 
The Theban army, the whole people, thy lifters, and even thy mo- 
ther, have been witnefles of thefe horrors. Oedipus indeed may 
thank his defpair for having efcaped a fight fo miierable. Oh, let 
this name remind thee, that in the judgment of thy father, error 
itfelf ought not to remain unpunished ! Be warned then, I conjure 
thee, and do not overthrow thy country ; deftroy not a throne 
which thou wiflieft to afcend. .Refleift a moment upon the blind- 
nefs of thy rage : thou claimeft a right to reign over this kingdom ; 
and thou wouldft lay it in ruins. Thou wouldft poflefs it, and 
yet thou wouldft annihilate it. To be thine it muft ceafe to be. 
Thy condudt hurts thy caufe. Wouldft thou not Ipread dcfolation 
over her, like an enemy ? deftroy her city, burn her fruitful fields, 
put all her inhabitants to flight? Ah, Thebes cannot belohg to 
thee ! for no one would lay wafte his own territories. Thou canft 
not confider this country as thy own, againft which thou bringeft 
fword and flames. Suffer the ftate to fubfift, and then demand 
which of you fhall reign over it. 

But canft thou, my fon, canft thou fupport the fight of Thebes 
reduced to aflies ? What ! thefe towers of Amphion, not raifed by 
the painful labours of human hands, but by the powerful harmony 
of the lyre, which even ftones obey j wouldft thou have the cru- 
elty to overthrow them ? to carry away the fpoils of Thebes, and 
load with fetters the kindred of Oedipus r to force her matrons 
from the arms of their hufl>ands ? to confine her beauteous virgins 
in prifon, that they may be prefenled as flaves to the young brides 
of Argos? and I who am thy mother, in (hameful bonds, enhance 
the triumph of a brother over his brother? Wouldft thou dare to 
introduce the enemy into a city which ought to be fo dear to thee ? 
wouldft thou put all to fire and fword, and with this brutal rage 
expedl to be a king ? of what value would the fceptre be then ? 
Oh, liften, my fon, to the counfel of thy mother! fupprefs this in- 
human ambition, and obey the dictates of piety. 

PoLYNiCES. What! me wouldft thou have to fly, and ftill con- 
tinue to lead a wandering life, far from my native country, meanly 
imploring fuccours and fupport from ftrangers ? Could I be worfc 
treated if I had been perjured, and a traitor ? fhall I bear the pu- 
nifliment of another's treachery, while he enjoys the advantages 


384 T H E T H E B A I D. 

of it ? but thou commandeft me to be gone; (hould I obey, what 
term doft thou prefcribe to my exile ? where wouldft thou that I 
fhould fix my abode ? fliall my brother poffefs my palace, while I 
think myfelf happy to be confined to any cottage which he will 
deign to offer me ; for this furely you cannot deny me ? I may at 
Icart expeft an humble retreat inftead of the throne, which thou 
wouldft deprive me of. Reduced to this miferable condition, a 
vile flave, and not fo much a hulband as a fubjeft, how can I fol- 
io vV Adraftus to his kingdom ? No, mother, to fall from a throne to 
flavery, is what I cannot bear. 

Joe AST A. If nothing but a throne will content thee, and if thy 
hand muft weild a fceptrc, weighty as it is, the univerfe will af- 
ford thee a thoufand. 

Here the poet makes a geographical enumeration of kingdoms, 
which is puerile enough in Latin, but would be Worfe in French. 
Jocafta continues thus: 

Go, conquer thefe kingdoms, lead thither Adraftus and his army; 
let him put thee in pofleffion of thefe crowns : as for the crown of 
Thebes, be aiTured it is ftill thy father's. Banifhment is better 
than fuch a return; thy banifliment is the crime of another; thy 
return will be thy own crime. Thy forces more ufefully employ* 
cdin other conquefts, will procure thee fceptres unfullied with guilt: 
thy brother, no longer thy competitor, will be the firft to fight for 
thee. Go then, and engage in entcrprifes which a father and a 
mother may fecond with their prayers. A fceptre obtained by a 
crime is worfe than exile. Refleft upon the miferies and the vi* 
ciflitudes of war. In vain art thou followed by all the forces of 
Greece ; in vain doft thou difplay thy innumerable troops, the fate 
of arms is always doubtful, to rivals for dominion. The fword 
feems equal, but it is fortune that decides our hopes and fears. 
The crime is certain, the fuccels of it is not fo. Should I be- 
feech the Gods to grant thy defires, thou wouldft banifti them 
from Thebes; her citizens would be mafiacred; the enemy would 
become mafters of thy country; thou wouldft fubdue thy brother, 
and triumph; but what a triumph is that whi^h the conqueror 
cannot enjoy without rendering himfclf hateful! Alas! even he 
whom thou fo ardently defireft to conquer, when conquered, thou 
wouldft mourn for. Oh then, my fon, auit this fatal dcfign ! de- 
liver thy country from fear, and thy tamily from anxiety and 



P0LYNICE8. What ! Aall not then my guilty brother be punifli- 
ed for his treachery ? 

JocASTA. Believe me he will be too fcverely puniflied; he will 

PoLYNiCES. Is this the punifhment thou referveft for him ? 

Joe AST A. That it is a punifhment believe thy grand-father; 
bejieve thy father. Cadmus and his whole race wiU teach thee 
that it. is one. Not one of them wore the crown with impunity, 
although they were not perjured. Number Eteocles among thele 
unhappy kings. 

PoLYNiCRS. I do, and I think his deftiny too glorious to periih 
in the rank of monarchs. 

Joe AST A. I place thee but in the rank of exiles> be hated then, 
and reign on that condition. 

Pol YN ICES. Be it fo. He who fears to be hated is not defi- 
rous to reign. The creator of the world has made thefe two 
things infeparable, hatred and empire. A king and a hero will 
fuifer hatred. And what is it that procures a monarch the love of 
his people ? He ftays his hand and checks his power : he has 
more power when he is hated. He who would gain affedtion may 
hold the fi:epter in a paffive hand. 

Joe ASTA. * The king that is hated by his people neyer fways 
the fceptcr longs but it belongs to kings to. give rules of policy 
and government. Doft thou give rules to exiles? 

Polynices anfwers this fubtilty, which is very obfcure, as well 
as many other paiTages, only by declaring that he will facrifice 
^very thing to obtain the crown : he will give up his country, his 
palace, and even his wife to the flames. 

" Pro regno velim 

" Patriam, penates, conjugem flammis dare. 

** Imperia pretio quoiibet conflant bene.** 

The reft is wanting. What we have juft read will be approved 
or difapproved according to the different taftcs among men. I hare 
endeavoured to tranflate this author without burlelquing him, a 
manner of tranllating which is but too common. I have boon 
more faithful to his fenfe than to his pointed turn of wit. There 
are however fome beauties to be found in this piece; but they arc 
not beauties in the tafte of Grecian fimj)licity : fuch as are ftruck 

• Notwithftanding thefe lines are tbns deed they would be itninteUigible ia the 
placed in fome editions, there are tnanu- .mdatbflf Polynkef, 
ftiipts which give them to Jocafia ; and in* , 

Vol. II. D d d witji 

386 THE T H E B A I D. 

with the glare of wit will here find wherewithal to gratify them* 
felves J but thofc who would examine clofely the ftrength of rca* 
foning, and the conduct of the pailions^ will not be equally pleafed. 
But in order to fatisfy thefe different criticks, L {hall give them 
the thoughts of Juftus Lip&us, and Daniel Heiniius, upon the Latin 

* Juftus Lipfius, inhisobfervations upon the Latin tragedies, takes 
great pains to difcover who are the authors of them* . He pretends 
to have found tliree or even four. He gives the Medea to the true 
Seneca, who lived in the time of the Emperor Claudius. Many 
other pieces, as the Hercules Mad, to a Seneca in the reign of 
Trajan. As for the Thebaid, this is his opinion of it : that it was 
written by an author, whofc name he is not able to difcover, but 
whom he thinks worthy of the age of Auguftus, He would, he 
fays, if he durft, decide this queftion j however, he is of opinion, 
that he may fafely pronounce this piece to be greatly fuperior to 
the others. " The economy of it, continues he, is very different 
'' from all the reft : It has no Chorus, it fuffers no interruption, 
" written uniformly, the poetry every where equal, and the whole 
'• piece is grand, fublime, and truly worthy of the bufkiii. There 
" is nothing puerile in it 1 nothing ftrained or affefted; the fcn- 
" tences wonderful fine ; not ftudiouily introduced, but ftrong, 
** nervous, and to me they appear fo ftriking, that they not only 
*• animate me, but lift me as it were out of myfelf. Can any of 
'^ the others produce fuch an effeA ? I will venture to pronounce 
" that it is a compofition of the Auguftan age: from the choice ot 
*' the fubjed, ana fome verfes which feem to be exprefly inferted 
" in it, I fufpe<a that it was written during the civil wars; how- 
*' ever that may be, it deferves to be particularly diftinguiflied ; 
** and that it fhould be no longer prophaned by the breath of the 
" ignorant vulgar. Yield then, ye critics, and no longer fcruplc to 

. ** rank this piece among the beft compofitions of the Romans/' 

•j-Let us now hear Heinfius ; he gives the ten tragedies to five 
Latin authors. The Hippdlitus, the Trojan Captives, and Medea, 
to Lucius Anneus Seneca, the Philofopher; Hercules diftradted, 
Thyeftes, Oedipus, Agamemnon, to Marcus Annaeus Seneca, a 
relation of the other Seneca. The others, that is to fay, the The- 
baid, Hercules on mount Oeta, and Odtavia^ to feveral unknown 

* I Lipfiiamndiadverr ioTragaed. quoL. necae ac rcliquoram quae extfuit Tragoedi, 
' Anneo Seoecse tribuunter. ftnimadTcrfioDes, Ac^ 

t'Dao. Heiniii in I* & M* Axum Se- 



T H E T H E B A I D. 387 

Reclaimers. ** The Thebaid, fays he, is a piece of that kind; it is 
'* wholly unworthy of the praifes which a learned writer has be- 
*' flowed on it" (ne means Juftus Lipfius.) Heinfius, after this be- 
ginning, falls upon the title Thebaid, which he thinks is impro- 
perly chofen. This is mere cavelling; but when he defcends to 
a minute examination of this piece, he argues with more folidity. 
He fays, that it is a tragedy compofed of the faults of the Greek 
poet, without one of thofe beauties which he might have taken 
from him. He condemns the expofition of the fubjedt by Oedipus 
as trifling ; the firft fcene of Jocafta as ridiculous, and all the reft 
as abfurd. " His little fentences, fays he, choak up thefentimcnts 
"he labours to produce. His periods, and fome of his fen- 
** timents, which feem tolerably good, fink into nothing at laft. 
<* The ftyle does not in the leaft refemble that of Seneca the Phi- 
** lofophcr ; nor is it equal to that of the Trojan Captive, the Me- 
'* dea, or Hyppolitus,. Thofe who will have this piece to be 
** written in the Auguftan age give us only their own authority in 
*' fupport of this opinion ; and it is not likely that their difcern- 
'* ment and their tafte fhould be readily fubmitted to, when they 
^* fail in all the reft. It muft be obferved alfo, that as Efchylua 
** and Sophocles take care to infinuate through ' all their writings 
** that they are Pythagoreans, fo we find this fort of declaimers 
** affeding to give themfelves the varnifh of Stoicifm. There arc 
<* many ftrokes of it in the Thebaid, fuch as that hackneyed one 
" which the Stoicks make ufe of fo oftentatioufly to exalt the in- 
*' flexible conftancy of their mafter; and which Antigone thus 
** expreflfes : Yes, my father, thou oughteft to look upon thyfclf 
'* as guiltlefs ; and fo much the more innocent as thou art fo in 
** fpite of the Gods. We may find many fuch in Seneca the 
" Philofopher; and this it is which the celcbratred Juftus Lipfius 
*' alludes to, who was a great lover of the Stoicks." 

I have delivered the opinions thus oppofite of two able men, that 
I may give an example of the diverfity of judgments in matters of 
tafte; but this divcraty never broke out with refpedt to the wri- 
tings of the Greeks, nor the beft writings of the Romans. It is 
the laboured and glittering ftyle which has produced adverfaries 
and defeodcrs ; it never happened before the appearance of this 
ftyle, that fimplicity and fentiment became fo highly valued. This 
contention has rifen higher as there was more or lefs tafte for 
fimplicity and plain fenfe : the fbarkling writers of the fame age 
Jl^ve been compared to one another ; as for example, the Latin 

D d d 2 tra- 

38a THE T H E B A I D. 

tragedies.of which we are now ipeaking ; and^ according to the 
comparifon^ every one in his own way has thooght it proper to 
di(Ungui(h authors and ages, and the more becaufe in reality thefe 
tragedies are not all written with the fame degree of ftrength, 
though they have aU fome refemUance in the ftyle and manner of 

The queilion is, whether this ftyle and this manner of thinking 
which are conunon to them all, be equal to the turn and ftyle of the 
Greeks? And this I think cannot be allowed, although our theatre, 
with all the pomp with which Corneille has adorned it, owes the 
heighth to which he has raifed it to Lucan and Seneca ; although 
it be gready fuperior, if you will, to the theatre of the Greeks, yet 
it is more than probable, that as long as there is any tafte remaining 
for what is juft and natural, the Greek tragedies will always claim 
the fuperiority^ and will pleafe more than all the tinifel of Seneca, 
and of fuch of his imitators who have not the genius of a Corneille. 




IN the Antigone of Sophocles, we have feen part of that of Ro- 
trou. From the third fcene of the third afl: to the end> it is 
Sophocles's tragedy -, and the beginning is a (light imitation of the 
Phenicians of Euripides, or rather of the Thebaid of Seneca ; for 
Rotrou is not fo clofe a copier in the firft part of his Antigone as 
in the fecond. Racine has juftly obferved, that Rotrou's Antigone, 
although very faulty, on account of this duplicity of adion, is ne-*. 
vcrthelefs full of fine paflages. It is necefl&ry that we fhould ex- 
amine the plan and conduct of this piece. 

A C T L 

. Jocifta is rcprefented at her toilet dreffing herfelf at day-brieaky 
that ihe may fly to Eteocles, and interrupt tlie battle between the 
two armies, which unknown to her have been engaged Ibme hours. 
While fhe is preparing to go, Antigone and her fifter enter, and 
give the queen an account of the death of Meneceus, who they tell 
her had facrificed himfelf for the public good. Thus is the epifode 
of Euripides thrown into narration, where it appears as at a 
diftance, and has no great ej9e£b. And indeed this poet was under 
a neceflity of crouding his incidents very clofe together, fince he 
was refolved to fwcll his tragedy with fo great a number. 

Eteocles enters iqimediately afterwards, to give a circumAantial 
account of the battle, which had proved equally fatal to both par- 
ties: he alfo relates fome particulars of tne death of Meneceus^ 
^ Creon, who is pre&nt, throws out fome impious expreiliohs againft 
the Gods^ and fome injurious ones to the king, who excufes them 
in confideration of the grief of a father deprived of a fon whom he ' 
tenderly loved. Eteocles afterwards retires to hold a council > 
to which he takes with him all the lords that attended him, ex- 


cept Hemon, who remains alone with Antigone his miftrefs. 
This is the firft time they fee each other after a year's abfence 5 for 
Hemon had followed the fortune of Polyinices, Antigone's favou- 
rite brother. The converfation therefore turns upon this prince, 
whofe rage Antigone flatters herfclf (he (hall be able to all^, and 
put an end to the war. However, the two lovers draw only unfavour- 
' able prefages concerning this peace, and the interefts of their love. 
They are interrupted by a page fentfrom Eteocles, to fummon He* 
mon to the council, who had only ftaid behind to have a moment's 
private converfation with his miflrefs, after fo long an abfence. 

All thcfe objedts, which pafs before the eyes of the audience, al- 
moft as rapidly as I reprefent them here, have the fault of being 
extremely precipitated ; yet even in this precipitation there is a lin- 
gular grace, fince the fubjedt is explained in each fcene, and in a 
manner fo much the more interefting as that each a£tor appearing 
on a fudden after the other, acquaints us with fomething new. 
Thus all the pafl events and prefent interefls are unfolded niorc 
naturally than as the ufual way is by confidants; an artifice often 
neceffary, but almoft always cold and unafFe<fling. 

Notwithflanding this rapidity of Rotrou, we are yet but in the 
middle of the firft a£t ; and here the fcene is broken : for the au- 
dience who were at firft in the apartment of Jocafta, where, as I 
have obferved, the fubje^ is thus far explained, muft now tranf-^ 
port themfelves to the Grecian camp, without the Theban walk, 
and in the tent of Polynices. There we fee this prince between 
Argia his wife, and king Adraftus, his father-in-law: he rcr 
proaches himfelf with the blood his allies have (hed in his quarrel, 
and determines to challenge his brother to a fingle combat. Adraftus 
and Argia tremble at the thought. 

** Adr AST. Dieux, que propofez-vous ? quelle hofriblp avantur? I 
" Akgie. H^, Monfieur, fcoutez-la voix de la nature: 

** Songez quel eft le fang qup vpus vpulez verfer. 

" Sans honte & fans frayeqr pouvez-vous y penfer? 
** Polyn. La chbfe eft rcfolye, & la nature m^mc 

" Soufcrit i cet arret de ma fprp ur extreme, &c." 

Adraftus infifts upon his laying afide fuch a refolution : he even 
offers to refign the throne of Argos to him; but Polynices declares 
he fhould blufh to owe a fcepter to the fondnefs of a wife and the 
bounty of a father-in-law. He is refolved to purchafe it by his 
fword } and bcfides, he is Icfs provoked at the ufurpation of his 
» erQwi» 


ci'own than at his brother^s baienefs in violating his iaith» and the 
unnatural hatred he bears him. He embraces Argia, and re- 
commends her to Adraftus, as he does likewife the care of burying 
him if he fhonld perifh in this combat : he then forces himfelf a- 
way from them in fpite of all their intreaties^ and the zCt con^- 

A C T II. 

In the fecond aft the fpe<f^ator finds himfelf at the foot of the 
Theban towers, where Polynices, with his fword in his hand, after 
having thrown his defiance within the walls, calls fiercely upon his 
brother to appear, and charges him with cowardice for his long de- 
lay. The Argive chiefs in vain endeavour to flop Polynices : he 

<* Laiffez juger les Dieux; ne foyez que tcmoins/* 

Rotrou, as is eafy to perceive, does the very contrary of Euripi- 
des, who, in contrafting the charafters of the two brothers, gives 
more infolence and rage to Eteocles, and more gentlenefs and 
moderation to Polynices. Here it is Polynices who is haughty, 
revengeful, and inexorable. Eteocles is a far lefs odious charader. 
In this the French poet has not fucceeded any more than Racine, 
who imitated him; but this is not aU. They reprefent Eteocles as 
beloved by the people ; fo that he reigns in fome fort in fpite of 
himfelf: at lean he has this plaufible excufe for not refigning the 
crown ; whereas Polynices is looked upon and feared as a tyrant, 
a prejudice which produces no pity for him. In Euripides we la- 
ment his fate, in the two French tragedies we hate him. 

This difiference merits our confideration fo much the more as that 
the fituation in which Euripides places this prince is more unhap- 
py than criminal. His fcepter is unjuftly with-held from him; ne 
uies means to recover it, and has not recourfe to arms till the laft 
extremity. He is cruelly injured, and dragged reludtantly, if we 
may be allowed the exprefiSion, to the precipice ; and yet his mis- 
fortunes are puniihed as if they were crimes, fince he lofes his life, 
and is even after his death treated like a criminal. He is fuch a 
hero as tragedy requires; but if we deprive him of this advantage, 
if we make a tyrant of him, a barbarian, the enemy of his brother 
and his country, the fpedtators have no longer any tears to beftow 
onhim, and hedeferves his fate. Befides, what hero fhall wefubftitute 
in his place ? (hall it be Eteocles, a prince indeed fomewhat lefs odi« 



ottSt butan afiirper i and for that rea£m le&likdy to move the com- 
panion than the detcftation of the aadience. It is Seneca who 
firft tau^t us to disfigure Polyniccs, and unhappily the French 
poets have chofen to follow him rather than Euripides. 

But to return: Antigone appears upon the walls of Thebes ; and 
feeing Polynices again for the firft time fince his baniftiment, (he 
makes him a very affedting fpeedi^ to difliiade him from his fatal 

^' Polynice, avancez; portez ici la viie, 

'^ SouHrez qu'apr^ un an votre fbeur vous falue. 

^* Malheureufe! h^ pourquoi ne le puis-Je autremcat? 

** Quel Deftin entre nous met cet eloignement? 

'* Apr^ un fi lone-tems la foeur revoit fon frere, 

** Et ne lui peut donner le falut ordinaire : 

** Un feul cmbraffement ne nous eft pas permis ; 

^< Nous parlons {SSmlxcs comme deu^c ennemts. 

** He, mon frere, a qooi bon cet appareil de guerre? ] 

^^ A quoi ces pavilions fur votre propre terre? 

'^ Contre quel ennemi vous ^tes vous arme ? 

'* Ne trembleriez-vous pas, fi je Tavois nomm4 &c- 

*^ Encore d la nature £t6ocle d^fere ; 

^* II k laifle gagncr aux plaintes d'une mere:: 

^^ II n'a pas d^poiHile tous fentimens hunaams, 

" Et le fcr eft tout pr6t a tomber de fes mains : 

*^ Et vous plus inhumain & plus inaccefiible, 

.** Confervez contre moi le titrc d'invincible, 

" Moi, dont, &c/' 

The reft is equally ftrong, but Polynices has £ready taken his 
refolution : he cannot be difarmcd even hy a fitter, whom he ten- 
derly loves, unlefs fhe will refolvc to plunge his fwond into his owii 
bofom; this he will confent to, but he will never confent to live, 
and not be revenged on his brother. 

That inftant Etcocles fhews himfelf and accepts the challenge. 
Afhamed at having appeared fo late, he is eager for the combat, 
and fays, 

" Que le champ du combat en foit aufli le prix.*' 

After this fhort and fpirrted fcenc, Jocafta enters and throws her- 
fclf between her two fons. Crcon takes oifFence at this adion and 
betrays by a fingle word that cruel ambition which incites him to 



wifli the two brothers may kill each other, that the throne may be 
left vacant for him. Racine has given Creon the fame character* 
In Rotrou, Jocafta plays the fslme . part as in Seneca. She com- 
mands her fohs to embrace ; they behold each other with eye« 
fparklrng with rage. Polyniccs infults Jocafta by the fufpicion he 
conceives of her : this fault Rotroa was led into by imitating; Se- 
ineca; bat in other rcfpc<9:s he has improved upon him. Sec, a- 
mong many others, the following four beautiful lines; 

** Car quelle eft cette guerre & quels font ks objets ? 
^* Vos parens, vos' amis, vos pays, vos fujets. 
** Ccft ce qu'oQ peut nommer votre parti contrairc: 
<« De ce fonefte hymen nous fommes le douaire." 

for Polynices had efpoufed the daughter of an enemy of Thebes^ 
The two brothers break into mutual rage, and provoke each other 
by reproaches and threats. Jocafta, to appeafe them, propofes to 
Polynices conquefts more worthy of him than that of Thebe.^.. 
Speaking of Eteocles, (be fays, 

** Mais quoi, fon r6gne plait; le votre eft redoutow 
** PoLYN. II a gagn6 les coeurs. Et moi moins popuhire 
** Je tiene indifferent d'etre craint ou de plaire. 
** Qui rcgne aim^ des fiens en eft moins abfolu, &c." 

The queen, enraged to find that her ungrateful fons pay no re*- 
gard to her tears and intreaties, quits them with thefc words, 

" Adieu, non plus mes fils, mais odieufes peft«s, 
" Et d^teftables fruits de nieurtres & d*inceftes, 
" Vous ne mourrcz pas jfeuls, & je fuivrai vos pas, 
*' Pour vous periccuter m£me apres le tr^pas." 

Hemon and the Argive chiefs ufe fruitlefs endeavours to difTuade 
Polynices from the combat, while on the other fide Creon ani- 
mates Eteocles by this line : 

" Vengez-nous, vengez-vous, & vcngez vos fujets. 

Eteocles indeed, notwithftanding"]the rage that poflcflcs him, per* 
ceives the fecret intereft which fuggefts this language ; he evert 
goes fo far as to reproach him with it ; but the fault lies in the 
giving this character to Creon; and into this fault Racine alfo has 
fallen, who has copied Rotrou in one greater ftill, as we fliall 
foon fee. 

Vol. II_ E e c The 


The two brothers retire to chufe a proper place for the combat^ 
that is, they retire that they may not be under the neceffity of 
fighting before the audience : but if it be a fault to break the unity 
of place, it is alfo one to be obliged to give bad reafbns for not ex- 
posing to the eyes of the fpedlator any thing which it is not fit he 
ihould fee ; for what hinders the two rivals from fighting in the 
very place where they appear with their fwords drawn in their 
hands ? 

A C T in- 

In this aft we arc tranfportcd to Antigone's apartment, where 
we hear this princefs chaunt, if we may be allowed the expreffibn^ 
fome flanzas on the occafion of Jocafta's death, whp has killed 
berfelf Racine has taken this turn, and has fucceeded flill worfe^ 
foj he makes Antigone talk of love while the dead bodyof her mo- 
ther lies before her. But Rotrou is not guilty of this indecorum, 
at leaft his ftaneas turn upon fortune,, which he loads with fome 
poetical inveftives. 

Hemon enters to acquaint his miftrefs with the death of the 
two princes. This recital, which is an imitation of Euripides, has 
fome ftrokes in it more beautiful than the original. Antigone 
continues fome time Ukeone ftupified with grief 5 then recovering 
a little fhe (hews Hemon the body of Jocafta. At length Ifmena 
arrives, who puts the laft hand to the grief and defpair of her fitter, 
by informing her of the new decree publifhed. by Creon, which 
prohibits any perfon from giving funeral honours to Polynices, un- 
der pain of being buried alive. Here a new order of incidents be- 
gins ; I mean, we are now come to the tragedy of Sophodes,. 
which makes the fecond part of Rotrou-s : we have given an ac- 
count of it in its plaqe. 



T H E B A I D: 

O R, T H E 




EVERY one knows that Racine. made an apology for this play> 
which was written when he was very yourtg ; and indeed it 
bears the marks of extreme youth, and is very different from thofe 
perfedt pieces which his pen afterwards produced. Although he . 
nas flaviftily followed Rotrou throughout the whole tragedy, yet it 
is not difficult to difcover the hand of Racine in certain places 
which are touched with exquifite grace. , This piece being much 
better known than that on which it is formed, it will be fufficient 
to give a fliort account of it here, to diftinguifh what parts of if 
are imitations of Seneca and Rotrou, and what are not. It is not to 
be doubted but if Racine had treated the fubjeft of the Thebaid 
with as full a knowledge of the theatre as he had when he wrote 
his Iphigenia, and his Phedra, he would have foUpwed the plan of 
Euripides : in proportion as he advanced, his own oblcrvations 
would have led him to preferve more fimplicity in his fubjedts. 
This is the great advantage we acquire from experience and re- 
I fledlion; we perceive at length that the greateft effort of art, is to 
imitate nature as clofe as poflible; and there is nothing fb iimple 
as nature herfelf, 

A C T I. ^ 

The firft fcene is almoft the fame with that of Rotrou, except 
that Racine does not place Jocafla at her toilet. Among other' 
fine lines which the queen addreffes to the fun in fpeaking of the 
two princes, fhe fays, 

Eeea - " Tu 


** Tu f9ais qu'Hs font fortis d'un fang inceflueux, 
** Et tu t'etonncrois dc Ics voir vertuei;ic. 

Antigpne> who hs» been £ent for> enters Tand Jocafta prepares to 
go with her to the camp, to feparate the brothers. This is alio co- 
pied from Rotrou. Eteocles enters^ as in the former poet, and 
Jocafla falls almotl fainting into the arms of her attendants,, at the: 
fight of fome blood which appears upon hi& robe. 

" Eft-ce Ic fang d'un frcre, ou n*eft-ce point Ic v6tre/' 

Eteocles, after removing her fears, by acquainting her that there 
had been a fkirmifh between fome of the Theban foldiers, and » 
party of the enemy, which he had put an end to^ endeavours ta 
juflify his condodb, and his motives for giving battle to die Argive 
army. Thebes, he fays, defires to have him for her king, and 
rejeds Polynices. Jocafta however prevails upon him to confent 
to a truce, and an interview with Polynices. Crecxi appears, and 
betrays, iii fpite of himfelf, that ambition whkh incites him ta 
keep up the rage of Eteocles againft his bro^r, and to haften the 
battle. Jocafta and Antigone give him plainly to underftand that 
tiiey perceive his motive for a£ting thus ; but Creon dexterouit^ 
attributes the terrors of Antigone to her paffion for Hemon, who 
is his fon and his rival. All thefe iecret intdreAs, which open fuc*^ 
cefHvely, are here more extended than in Rottou's tragedy, where 
Croon fufiers no other reproach for his eager deiire <^ reigning 
than by afingle word from Eteocles: but in Racine^ it is Eteocla 
only who is^ the dupe of the ambitious Creon, who(e ioterefled. 
projeSs arc difcovered by all the others : but why, when they are 
So iblicitous to prevent the battle, do th^ not give Eteocles a hint 
of the treachery and bafenefs of Creon ? 

A C T 11. • 

Hemon entertain Antigone with his paflion, while Jocafta is^ 
gone to the temple to^conluk the oracle. This feene has more 
gallantry in it than that of the old poet, and therefore plcafes Icfs. 
Was it a time to think of love when the ftate was upon the point 
of fuffering a revolution ? Racine perceived this fault himfelf; and; 
therefore, in his preface to this phy, he acknowledges that love, 
when made the bufinefs of a fubordinate charafter,' ** becomes a 
«* paffion foreign to the fubje(9:, and likewife that the tendemefs or 
*• jealoufies of lovers cannot properly have a place araidft inqefts,. 

" pa-^ 


THE T H E B A I D. 597 

•^ paricides, and all thofe horrors which compofe the hiftory <^ 
*< Oedipus and his unhappv family/' 

Olympia, Jocafta*s confiaant> brings an account that the' oracle 
demands a facrifice of the laft erf" the royal race. Hemon and An- 
tigone doubt whether one of them is not meant by this oracle j, 
but what foundation have they for thefe doubts ? are they igno- 
rant that neither of them is the laft branch of the royal flock? The- 
oracle points out Meneceus, Creon's youngeft fon, plainly enough t 
this is an unpardonable fault. 

Polynices, in his interview with Jocafta and Antigone, maintains 
the fame haughty and inflexible charad6r nvhich Rotrou has given* 
him ; and Racine has here exaftly copied the old poet ; and it is 
really aftonifhing, that being fo great an admirer of Euripides as. 
he was, he fhould not have chofen to reprefent Polynices in hi& 
true colours : he would have pleafed more than even by putting 
the following beautiful lines into his mouth. 

*^ Eft-ce au peuple, Madame, i fe donner un Maitre ? 
" Si-t6t qu'il hait un Roi doit-on cefler de Y&trci 
•* Sa haine ou fon amour font-ce les premiers droits, 
•' Qui font monter au Tr6ne ou defcendre les Rois ? 
^^ Que Ic peuple a fon gre nous craigne ou nous cheriife^ 
^ Le fang nous met au Trdne, & non^ pas fon caprice. 
*• Ce que le fang hii donne il le doit accepter, 
** Et s'il n'aime fon prince, il le doit refpcfter/*^ 

And theie concerning Eteocles, 

** C'eft un Tyran qu'on aime^ 
** Qui par cent lachetis d ie maintenir 
♦* Au fang ou par la force il a f9u parvenir; 
** Et fon orgueil le rend par un cfFet contraire 
^ Efclave de fon peuple fe Tyran de fon frere> 
•• Pour commander tout feul il vcut bien obei'r^ 
** Et fe fait ni^prifer pour me faire hair, &c." 

Antigone fays all that nature and Rotrou have dilated to the: 
moft pathetic poet that ever wrote ; but Polynices is inexorable.. 
In tl^is perplexity a foldier comes haftily to inform him that the 
truce has juft been broke: he departs inftantly, and thus frees him- 
felf from the importunities of a mother and a fifter. Racine has 
managed this incident with great art. It was Creon who had con- 
trived to raife a tumult, being apprehenfive that a reconciliation; 
would be effcded between the brothers- 


59* THE T H E B A I D. 


Jocafta fends Her confidant to obferve what paflcs, and pro- 
nounces a 'fine foliloquy after having prepared the epifode of Mcne- 
cius, who is fuppofed to begone to enquire how things went on bcr- 
twen the two armies. 

Eteocles, returning with Creon, clears himfelf from any fufpi- 
cion of having broken the truce defignedly: he tells the queen that 
it was a flight quarrel at firft, which infenfibly turned to a general 
engagement* Creon pretends to be defirous of peace; but the 
king, who is eiFedlually impofed upon by him, urges him, on the 
contrary, to take yengeance on the enemy for the death of hisfon* 
Immediately a meflcnger brings notice that Polynices demands aa 
interview with his brother. This incident is not well introduced. 
The king yields, although with great difficulty, to the intreaties of 
Jocafta, Antigone, and even Creon, who exhorts him to fee his 
brother; but as foon as Creon is left alone with his confidant, he 
pulls oflf the mafk, and unfolds the horrible myftery which had in- 
duced him to prefer an interview between the brothers before an 
open war. He would reign ; but he is not willing to gratify bis 
ambition at the expcnce of any more of his blood. The war 
might prove fatal to his fon Hemon, whofe brother he had fo 
lately loft. He knows the deep-rooted hatred between Eteocles 
and Polvnices ; and his defign is, that the brothers ftiould ftifle 
^ach other in their mutual embraces ; that is, that this interview 
fliall produce a fingle combat. This is an impious ftroke ; but is 
lie not miftaken in his policy ? May not one or other of the princes 
conquer? arid in this cafe would not Creon begreatly difappointed? 
But he is reprefented as a tyrant, blinded by his extreme ambition, 
and makes it his glory to appear a villain in the tyes of his confi- 
dant, provided he can perceive the leaft probability of one djiy 
afcending the throne. 


In the converfation between Creon and Eteocles, the former, 
ft'ill difguifing his fentiments, thus artfully fpeaks to the king con* 
cerning Polynices. 

" Mais s'il vous cede cnfin la grandeur fouveraine, 
^* Vous devez ce me fe;jible, appaifer votre haine." 


THE t H E B A I D. 399 

The king, who docs not perceive the defign of this infinuation, 
becaufe no one has charity enough to unfcdd the myftery to him, 
fwears an eternal hatred to. polynices, and ftrongly paints the anti- 
pathy that divides them. They hated each other before they were 
born, and their hatred will continue even after their death. 

" J'aurois mem« regret qu'il me quittdt Tempire — 
" Je veux qu'il me d^tefte afin de le hair, &c.'* 

This paflageis worthy the author of Pliedra and Andromache^ 
Creon, perceiving that he had brought Eteocles to the- point he 
wifhed, confents, fince it muft be fo, to facrifice his ardent defirc 
for peace. 

Notice is given that Polynices is arrived -, and accordingly he en- 
ters immediately afterwards, accompanied by Jocafta, Antigone, 
and the whole court. This fcene is taken wholly from Seneca> 
or Rotrou, but embelliflied. The queen weeps and folicits ia 

« Tous deux pour s'attendrir ils ont Tame trop dure. 
** lis ne conhoiflent plus la voix de la nature.*^ 

Speaking to Polynices, flie adds fome reproaches^. 

*' Et vous que je croiois plus doux & plus foumis, &c.'^ 

In this (he is certainly in the wrong, for it is not in this hght 
that Polynices is reprefented throughout the courfe of this poem : he 
always fupports that haughty and inflexible charadler which the 
poet has thought fit to give him. It is he who propofes the fingle 
combat, Eteocles accepts it. The defpair of Jocafta produces no 
change in their refolution. But after thefe tragick incidents, which 
©ught to be referved for the end of the fcene, the poet makes Jo- 
cafta propofe the conquefts of other kingdoms to Polynices. She 
afterwards leaves them in the fame manner as in Seneca, and 

" Et moi je vais, cruels, vous apprcndre i mourir; 
*' Antig. Madame— -O Ciel! que vois-Je? hclas rieaneles* 

* Antigone fays no more; and. her brothers breaking from her, fly 
to the combat. The poet has done well in making this princcfe 
Jteep lilence all this time. Three ipeakers in a fcene, where the- 



400 T H B T H B B A I D. 

Situation was & violentt were quite fuffidcnt All that Antigone 

can now do 13 to lend Hemon after her brothers, to feparate them. i 

A C T V, 

Antigone^ by her tears and complaining ftanzas> acquaints us 
Aat Jocafta has killed herfelf. She deliberates whether (he fhall 
not follow her mother; bat tenderncfs for her loirer prevails over 
the glory of imitating her example. 

♦* Dois-je vivre ? dois^je mourir? 
*' Vn amant me retient^ une mere m'appelle. 
«« Dans la nuit du tombeau je la vois qui m'attendi 
*' Ce que veut la raifon, Tamour me Ic defend, 

*^ Que je vois des fujets d'abandonner le jour ! 
*^ Mais, h^las, qu'on tient a la vie 
«* Quand on tient (i fort ^ Tamoor? 

^ Hemon vois le pouvoir que Tamour a fur moi. 
*' Je ne vivrois pas pour moi-m^me, 
** Etje veux bicn vivre pour toi." 

Olympia, who from the beginning of this tragedy to the end, is 
continually employed in running between the camp and the palace^ 
comes to tell Antigone, that Polynices has conquered ; for ihe has 
ftcn only half the combat. This happy thought Racine has borrow- 
ed from Corneille's* Horace, where Julia informs old Horace, 
that flic had fccn his fon flying before the Alban champion. 

Creon afterwards prefents himfelf to Antigone, who gives him 
to underftand that flie thinks his cruel and ambitious policy well 
puniflicd by the vidory of Polynices ; but Creon undeceives her, 
by acquainting her with the true event of the combat: Eteocles, 
he tells her, dying, killed his brother ; and Hemon likewife en- 
deavouring to feparate tbem, became the vidim of his obedience 
to the commands of Antigone, who had charged him not to quit 
her brothers. • The death of Hemon infpires Creon with new 
hopes : he weeps for his fixn, but he lofes a rival : be even ventures 
to offer his hand and throne to Antigone. She anfwers, 

*' Je le refuferois de la main des Dieux meme, 
** Et vous ofez, Crconi m'ofFrir le Diademe ! 

Horace, Aa III. Scene 6. 


THE T H IE B A 1, D: ^ch 

*' Creon Je f9ai que ce haut rang n'a rien dc glorieux, 

** Qui ne cede a Thonneur de rofFrir i vos yeux. • 
" D'un fi noble deftin me croycz-vous indignc ?•* 

' Is it pofJiblc to make the leaft refledtion upon this difcourfe of 
Crcon's> without allowing that it is worthier of aTartuffe than of a 
father who had j uft loft his two fons, and who had fubverted the ftate, 
that he might poflefs the throne ? Ambition ought to have been 
his only paffion ; love is abominable in his mouth. However he 
<K)ntinuesr diu^: 

** Mais fi Ton peut pretendre a cette illuftre gloire, 
•• Si par-d'illuftres faits on pciut la m^riter, 
" Que faut-il faire enfin^ Madame ? 
<« Antig. M'imiter/* 

This thought is very beautiful ; but Creon ought not to havebccA ' 
made ridiculous for the fake of introducing a fine thought. He 
is yet more fo in the following fcene, where he underftands this 
cxpreflion as a certain fign that Antigone has relented with regard 
to him. The infamous contriver 'of*fo many crimes^ of the mur* ^ 
der of the two brothers, his fovereigns ; and of the two princes, 
Ms fons, is not aihamed to boaft of thefe adtions, becaufe'by them 
he gains a throne and a miftrefs. We allow the force of ambition 
in a furious prinocj who is folely employed in facrificing every 
thing that obftrufts his way to the throne ; but is it natural to ima- 

fine that this very prince, who is a father alfo, ftiould rejoice at 
aving loft a rival in his own ion ; and above all, that he Should 
<Ieceive himfelf fo greatly as to imagine he is beloved by a princeft 
who had penetrated into the views of his barbarous policy; who 
had reproached him with them to his face$ and who had fliewn 
him contempt, fufficient to have difcouraged any one but himfelf? 
Is it natural, I repeat, that notwithftanding all this, he fhould be 
mad enough to reckon upon the love of Antigone on no other 
foundation than one word; which was likewife fo far from being 
obfcure, that its beauty confifts in its ftiewing plainly the refolution 
Antigone had taken to kill herfelf, that Ihe might follow her mo- 
ther and her lover. , . 

Accordingly, this is^ what really happens ; and that we may 
not doubt it, Olympa, the general meflenger of the play, comes to 
acquaint Creon, that Antigone had ftabbed herfelf with a poniard, 
pronounc ng thefe words : 

Vol IL Fff "Cher 

402 THE T H E B A I D. 

" Cher Hcmon, c'cft k toi que jc me facrific/* 

Creon, at this news, feems to be upon the point of faccificing 
himfelf to Antigone, fo full is he of his extravagant paiTion, which 
had been fo little marked till the fifth aft. The throne is now 
defpifed, Antigone was all he valued; he addreifes thefe words to 
the Gods : 

" Vous m'6tez Antigone, 6tez moi tout k refte." 

He befeeches them to flrike him with thunder. Certainly he 
has no fword ; for the Greeks never wore one but when they were 
travelling, or in war. At length, overcome with rage and defpair, 
he falls into the arms of his guards. 

I have dwelt the longer upon thefe laftpafTages, in order to (hew 
that it is not enough to contrive a great number of beautiful 
fprines to the theatrical machine, if they are not all played off 
together, and with propriety : therefore the Greeks, and' Racine 
in imitation of them in fome of his other pieces, hav^ given more 
fimplicity to their works. A fingle voice is more moving and 
produces a greater efFcft than twenty ; cfpecially if one be out of 
tune. In like manner, one padion well fupported, is more 
likely to reslch the heart than feveral, although they (hould mutu- 
ally aid each other : how much more then when one deftroys the 
other, as love and ambition in; this tragedy ? 

After this analyfis of Racine's tragedy, it will not be difficult to 
difcover haw much of it belongs ta Seneca> and how much to Ro^ 
trou; and we cannot help being furprifed that Racine fhould be 
^ far blinded by his fondnefs for his firft tragedy as to endeavour 
to perfuade us in his preface, that when he comp#fed it,. *' He 
'' formed his plan upon the Phenicians of Euripides^ and with re- 
** gard to the Thebaid, which is given to Seneca, be was of the 
^^ fame opinion as Heinfius, that not only it was not writtea by Se^^ 
** neca, but alfo that it appeared to be the compofition of fome de- 
•• claimer, who knew not the nature of tragedy." 

Affufedly Racine did npt adopt thefe fcntiments, till the time 
that he printed this preface; that is, till long after .he had found 
out that the method purfued by the Greek poets was far better 
than that of the Latin. 



O C A S T 

O F 


^ I "'HE Italian Poet has, like all the others who have written 
J^ upon this ftory, given his play a different title from that of 
the Greek one; for the Thebaid, Antigone, and Jocafta, are all 
founded on the Phenicians of Euripides. Dolce, as ufual, has 
tranflated him ; but he cannot be cxcufcd for having altered the 
fecond fcene, which is extremely fine. He durft not venture t6 
ihew Antigone upon a tower, as the Greek poet has done; and 
this fcruple has made him lofe all the beauty of that fcene, in 
which Euripides had fo happily imitated Homer. Certainly theie 
two ancient poets were guides good enough to juflify. Dolce for 
not goine aiide from their paths on this occafion, fince he has 
fcarcely done any thing more than tranflate them throughout the 
refl of his plays* 

Fff2 MEDEA. 

M E n E A. 


JASON, no longer mindful of his great obligations to Medea, 
who in his attempt to gain the golden fleece, had delivered 
him from: certain deam> and had facrificed every thing that ought 
to have been dear to her, to follow him through innumerable dan- 
gers, refolves to banifh her and the children he had by hers having 
firfl married Gkuca^ die daughter of the king of Corindi, before 
her face. Medea's revenge for thcfe injuries makes the fubjedk 
df the tragedy. The adion is (6 flriking, that it has afforded mat* 
ter for feveral tragedies, all of them imitations of that of Euripides.. 
Ovid compofed one which has not come down to us,, and of whicl^ 
Quintilian has preferved this celebrated line : 

Servare potuf\ perdere an poffim rogas? 

^ Si jai pA le fituver ne puis-je le d^truire ?" 

Ennius tranflated the Medea of Euripides into Latin verft^ fomc- 
fragments of which are to be found in the works of Gicero. It is. 
faid that Mecenas himfclf had treated this fubjefl:; but the bcftof 
thefe compofitions which we have now remaining^ are the Medea 
of Seneca, that of Lodovico Dolce, a tranflation of it by Bucharian, 
a tragedy by Peter Corneille, under the title of Medea, without 
reckoning* that called the Golden Fleece, and the Opera of The- 
leus. We are now to examine that tragedy of Euripides which 
. has given rile to all the others. 

His adtors are nine in number ; namely Medea, Jafon, Greon 
king of Corinth ; Egeus king of Athens; the two fons of Medea,, 
ftill children; their Governor, Medea s confidant ; and an officer, 

I -^ 

* This play has no relation to the. prefent. fubje^, although Medea is the principal 
charafter in it • 


M E D E A. 405^ 

befides the Chorus, compofed of Corinthian women, faithful to 
the intercfts of Medea:. Thg fcene is in the veftibule of Creon^s 
palace. Corneille * calls it a public fquare, and thinks there is a 
great impropriety in introducing kings and princes converfing in 
fuch a place. In this laft article he is certainly right ; but there 
is no reafbn to believe, that thefe veftibules where Euripides fo 
frequently lays the fcencs were always public places. Sometimes 
thefe porticoes were within view of the fquares and ftreets, as is 
fuppofed in the tragedy of Oreftes;^^ but there is no proof that 
this was always the cafe. 

It will be proper to relate here in few words the hiftory of Me* 
dea, fo elegantly written in the feventh book of Ovid's Metamor- 
phofes : fhe was daughter to -^ta, king of Colchos, -f- and very 
fkilful in the magic art; which means no more than that (he pof- 
feffed a great (hare of wit; but flie made an ill ufe of her know- 
ledge, for. fhe became famous for her crimes. Her paffioa 
for Jafon was the fource of them alL Jafon was the fon of iEfon> 
king of lolcos ^ Pelias, his uncle, hadufurpedthe dominions ofiEfon. 
The young prince, who had been conveyed out of the tyrant's; 
reach, returned when he was grown a man, and claimed his right;. 
but Pelias, like an able politician, to get rid of him, plaufibly pre- 
vailed upon him to engage in the enterprize of the golden fleece,, 
at the head of the Argonauts. The defign of thia expedition was 
to carry away this rich fleece, which was guardedf by a horrible 
dragon, and feveral bulls, who breathed fire and flames. On his^ 
arrival at Colchos, Medea fell in love with him, and made him - 
mafter of the treafures without danger, but at the expence of her 
country and of her father iEta, whofe deftiny depended upon the 
fleece. The lovers fled, ^ta purfued them, but in vain. Jafon^ 
returned to lolcos with his wife, who contrived to free him from: 
the ufurper Pelias, by pretending that (he was poflefled of a fecret 
which would reflore his jrouth ; and upon this ridiculous pretence 
prevailed upon his own daughters to kill him. After this aSion^. 
Jafon and Medea were obliged to take refuge in Corinth, where 
Jafon, to gratify a new paflSon, abandoned Medea. On this laft 
circumftance Euripides has founded his tragedy. We are not: 
now to feparate the hiftorical from the fabulous part of Medea's 
ftory, fince it is the latter which furniflies moft of the incidents in 

* P. Corneille in his critique on the Medea, t Colchos, the capital of Colchide, at the 
Hiouth of the Bhafe., 


4o6 ME D E A. 

this piece J wc (hall onlv obferve, that although Medea is guilty of 
having betrayed her father^ and of killing her brother Abfyrtus, 
whofc limbs, it is faid, (he fcattered along the road to (lop her fa- 
ther in his purfuit of her, is yet cleared of the murder of her chil- 
dren, by fome writers, who would at leaft render this matter doubt- 
ful, ^lian, for example fays, that by another tradition, it was not 
Medea who killed her fons, but the Corinthians i and he adds, 
that it was at the intreaty of the Corinthians, that Euripides 
altered his fubjedt, and caft the odium of this horrible crime upon 
Medea. There are even fome critics who will have it, but upon 
what authority is uncertain, that Euripides received five talents 
from the Corinthians, for laying his plan in this manner ; but 
whether this be true or not, Euripides might in this fubjeft, as in 
others, have different traditions ; arid that he has followed was 
much better calculated for the flage than any other. 

A C T I. 

Medea*s confidant opens the fcene. " * Would to the Gods, 
*' fays (he, that the Argonauts vtfM had never reached the fhore 
'* of Colchos ! Oh that the pines of Mount Pelion had never been 
" felled to build that fatal vefTel ! and that the fleece had ftill re- 
** mained in the pOiTeflcflion of iEta!" She has reaibn for thefe 
wifhes : Medea would not then have been criminal, and unhappy; 
criminal in having caufed Pelias to be murdered at lolcos by his 
daughters, deceived by her promife, that they (hould reftore 
his youth ; unhappy, by the perfidy of her hu(band, who had ta- 

• Phedrus, in one of his fables, informs ** plcafe then, oh reader! whofe cenfures 

us of two things worthy obfervation. The " arc more rigid than Cato's, fincc thou 

iirft is, that this manner of opening the " findeft fault with fables of every kind ? 

Icene was'greatly admired in his time, fincc *' Take my couniel, do not cavil at letters^ 

in deriding the cenfures paffed upon his fa- ** left thou ihouldft fuffer in thy turn, 

bles, he quotes this paiiage as being fingu- ** This fable is expreOy written agaunft 

larly beautiful. The fecond, that this very ** fuch as profefs to defpUe every work of 

palTage was condemned by fuperficial cri- ** wit ; and who afpire to the reputation of 

licks, becaufe Minos had failed upon the ** fuperiority of tafte and judgment, by con- 

Kgean fea before Argus built the fliip ** demningtho/e excellencies which they are 

which was called by his name ; therefore it ** not able to comprehend/' 
could not be the firft veiTel that ever was La Fontaine has imitated this fable in 

built; and Euripides was to blame in re- that, in which he ridicules perfons of a 

prefenring it as the firft. Phedrus anfwers nice and difficult tafte. It is the 23 ikblei 

t i) is cnticifm as follows: << How fliall we and begins with this line r 

•^ Quand j'aurois en naiifant recu de Calliope, &c/' 


MEDEA. 407 

ken her with him to Corinth to facrifice her there to a new paf- 
fion. " Medea, continues fhe, abandoned to her defpair, attefts 
** his violated faith, and all the Gods which he invoked at his 
" marriage with her: (be confumesaway with grief > imnroveablc 
•* (he fits, like a marble ftatue, and (hews no fignof life but when 
" (he laments her fathier, her country, and her family, which flie 
^' betrayed to follow a ftrangcr, whoJn his turn betrays and dc- 
" fpifes her. Too late, and to her coft, (he learns how defirablea 
** thing it is to dwell in one's native land. She hates even her chil- 
" dren, and can no longer endure them in her fight." In a word, 
the confidant is apprehenfive that a grief fo exceflive will have fa- 
tal confequences. ** I know her well, fays (he, a heart haughty 
** and fierce like hers, will not bear injuries unrevenged." 

Perceiving the children of Medea, who enter with their gover- 
nor *, " Alas, fays (he, thefe little ones know not that their mo- 
*' ther is wretched! happy age, which is exempted from anxiety 
•' and forrow." The Governor a(ks her why (he has left Medea 
alone; (he anfwers, that being fulLof grief herfelf, (he was obliged 
to come out of the palace to make her complaints to heaven and 
to the earth. A Grecian cuftom, which (hews that thefe detached 
prologues were ftill founded on the ancient manner; and therefore 
did not difgiift the Greeks as they do us. They complained to 
the fun, or to the ecchoes, which fignifies nothing more than that 
they gave free vent to their griefs. And it is on this cudom pro- 
bably that the foliloquies of the Greek poets and thofe of Euri* 
pides in particular were founded. 

The Governor tells her, that Medea was ftill ignorant of tbc 
new infults which (he was referved to fufifer ; and that it was de- 
temiined (he (hould be banifhed from Corinth with her childreA. 
The confidant obfervcs to the young princes that their father was 
igoing to abandon them: (he afterwards defires the Governor to 
lead them in, but not to fufifer them to approach their mother^ 
whofe rage feems to foretcl fome fatal attempt. This fcene be- 
tween two perfons faithful to the interefts of Medea has in it aO 
the beautiful fimplicity of thofe of Terence. 

Juft as the two princes are going to enter the palace, Medea is 
heard lamenting aloud : (he calls herfelf the moft wretched of wo- 
men : (he utters imprecations againft her hu(band, her children, 
and her whole family. Thefe and other complaints of the like 

• In the GrccVNurfe, as id the Elcftra of Sophocles, and the PlKnicians of Eoripides. 

4o8 MEDEA. 

nature are frequently intermingled with the reflexions of the con- 
fidant, who caufes the children to retire precipitately, and pro- 
nounces a fine moral i|&ech upon the devouring cares which 
princes arc expofcd to* 

Some Corinthian ladies, who are to compofe the Chorus, hearing 
the cries of Medea, haften to comfort her: flie renews her com- 
plaints, but does not appear, which afibrds another iubjeft of re- 
flexion and tender pity to her friends ; fuch as the ladies which 
compofe the Chorus are fuppofed to be. They prevail upon the 
confidant to intreat Medea to (hew herfelfi that they may endea- 
vour to confole her. ** I will do what you defire, replies (he, but 
" I am not fure that fhe will yield to my intreaties. I will con- 
*' jure her to come to you, although, like an enraged lioncfs ; her 
^* looks will make us tremble if we attempt to fpeak to her. Ah 
^* foolifh mortals ! why have you invented fongs to enliven hearts, 
** yet negled to ftudy the more ufeful art of foothing grief, and 
^* calming tho& horrid tranfports of defpair and rage, by which 
"** whole families arc often ruined. The powers of harmony 
^* ought to be applied to eafe afHidion. Why (hould we feek by 
^* fongs to heighten the feftivity of feafts, which in themfelves are 
^' fufficient to infpire mirth and joy ?" 

To Euripides, this thought appeared beautiful; however Ari- 
ftotle was of a diflFcrent opinion* Hugo* Grotiils has been al 
the pains to tranflate it into very fine Latin verfe; and fo alfo has 
Buchanan, in his Medea ; but thefe ftrokes of Anacreontic wit, 
which in tragedy feem out of their place, fhew us how difficult it is 
to reprcfent our Greek poets fuch as they really are. Many of 
thefe fine pafiages are loft to thofe who will not in imagination 
traniport themfelves into the age in which they were produced. 

ACT 11. 

Medea being informed by her confidant that the Corinthian la- 
dies are waiting in expedtation of feeing her, confents to fhew her- 

• " Nil me peccet, Judice, ii quis *« UndJ Sc morte;?, & funcfti 

«* Proavos multi^m fapuiffe negct. *• Cafus totas vertere domes. 

** Placuit thalamos quibtts Sc fcUvts ** Atqui pottus debuit iftis 

*« Ornare dapes catminey laetas ^' Mufa mederi; namquid ccena 

" Quod mulceret moliter aures: ** Ridenfe juvat tendere vocem 

*^ At multifides nemo Camaenis " Cum res per ft fit grata fatis 
— iff Docuic ftygios iiftere luftus, ' ** Dulcis moralibus e/ca ?** 

i felf 

MEDEA. 409 

fclf : here, if we may be aUowed the phrafc, flie keeps her 
court, and begins by artfully conciliating the affeftions of the la-,, 
dies, to induce them to engage in her interefts. She tells thern^ 
that Ihe would not give them any caufe to complain of her, by 
not confenting to Iw ^em. Princes, (he fays, oftentimes of- 
fend either by (hewing themfelves too much, or too little; 
yet her grief requires folitude, for abandoned by her hulband, 
the fport of a foreign court, (he has now no refourcc but 
the grave. She (hews the unhappinefs of thofe women whofe 
rank obliges them to marry, in terms nearly the fame as Hippolitus 
paints that of a man who is determined to take a wife. 

" A woman, fays Medea, muft purchafe a hu(band ; that is a 
'« matter, and perhaps a har(h one : deftined to be a flave, (he 
" knows not to whom her liberty will be fold ; and one may fay, 
*' (he enters into a new region." She goes on in this manner, but 
always excepts the ladies to whom (he fpeaks ; for they may at 
leaft confole themfelves for making a bad choice, by refied:irig that 
they are in the bofom of their natural country, and under the prO- 
teftion of their friends 5 but (he is a helplefs ftranger, without re- 
lations, without friends, to whom can (he confide her forrows ? 
All this is applied with great artifice to move the companion of the 
Chorus; and indeed (he gains them over to her intere(b fo abfo- 
lutely, that Comeille ^ it feems, was not furprifed to find this prin* 
cefs intruft the Chorus afterwards with the (ecret of her defighed 
vengeance againft a perfidious hufband, and an odious tyrant; for 
.Medea, although criminal, is reduced tofuch extreme diftrefs, and 
fo inhumanly treated by her hufband, and the king of Corinth, that 
£he has every voice in her favour. 

For this reafon therefore it may be faid, that this tragedy C^cms 
to authorife, or rather to juftify crimes, and thofe moft execrable; 
but befides that Medea is punifhed by her own wickednefs/ it 
mud be allowed the behaviour of Jafon in fomc meafure forces her 
to commit thefe horrid deeds, and renders her lefs hateful to the 
audience. This charader which Euripides has pix)duced upon 
the (lage is a very uncommon one, and is finely exprefled after 
him by Quinaut, in the opera of Thefeus. 

" Le deftin de Medee eft d'etre criminellc, 

^* Mais fon coeur 6toit fait pour fitre vertueux." Aft 11. Sc. I. 

" I ■ ■■ I ————»— ——Mi— fc I ■ I 

^ Comeill^*9 critique upoa Mpdeau 
Vol. IL G g g And 

410 MEDEA* 

And in the ninth fcene of the iecond ad, 

*' Depit mortcl, traniports jaloux 
** Je m'abandonne a vous. 
" Et toi, mcurs pour toujours tendrefTe trop fatale. 
*f Que le barbare amour que j'avois crii fi doux 
<' Se change dans mon cosur en Furie infemale! 
" Depit morteh tranfborts jaloux 
" Jc m'abandonne a vous. 
'^ Inventons quelque pein afireuie & fans 6gzlc, 
*' Preparons avec (bin nos plus funeftes coups : 
"Ah! fi ringrat que j'aime ^hape i mon courroux, 
** Au moins n'cpargnons pas mon heureufe rivale. 
" Depit mortel, tranfports jaloux. 
" Je m'abandonne a voux." 

The Chorus therefore engage heartily, in the intereft of Medea. 
Hereupon Creon king of Corinth appears with the air of a tyrant, 
and comes himfelf to declare to Medea that he dooms her and her 
children to banilhment. This is a little brutal it muft be confef- 
fed : he does not even fcruple to tell her his reafbns for this refolu* 
tion : he dreads the efFefts of her jealoufy, and her dangerous art; 
for he is not ignorant that /he is well /killed in magic> a fcience 
eileemed among the Greeks, but its profeflbrs were always held 
in fufpicion. and therefore Medea exclaims againft her fatal know* 
ledge. " The merit, fays fhe, is difgraceful ; and the fcience, by 
^* creating envy, raifes perfecutors who endeavour to render it odi- 
*' ous." Then, after a fine moral on this head, (he adds, that the 
abjedt ftate of her fortune ought not to render her formidable to 
a icing; that it is her hufband and not the king whomfhe accuies of 
breach of faith; and laftly, all {he begs is a retreat in ibme part of 
his dominions, where fhe may live unknown. But Creon denies 
her rcquefl : he dreads her calmnefs more than her fury : he ex- 
pelled from a princefs thus outraged, the moft violent tranfports 
of indignation; and he only fees an unhappy woman bathed in 
tears, who falls at his feet, and makes ufe of all the moving rhe- 
torick of grief to excite his pity j but this itfelf produces a quite 
contrary efFedl, and feems to him to be a jufler caufefor his appre- 
henfions : fome fatal defign he thinks mufl be concealed under a 
moideration fo unexpedted. Therefore all that Medea can obtain, 
after having defcended to fuppHcations and tears, is only one day 
to prepare hcrfelf for her exile ; and even this fhort interval he 


M ED E A- 411 

grants reludantly. Wc think wc fee Dido imploring of her faith- 
lefs Eneas a (hort delay. 

" Tcmpus inane peto, requiem Ipatiumquc furori, &c." 

This fcenc of Euripides is at leaft touched with as much delica-. 
cy as that of Virgil. The fame genius appears in both, but with 
this difference however, that to us the behaviour of Creon would 
appear brutal ; but this, after all, is a true pidkure of the Greeks. 
Medea therefore fays to him, " Deign at leaft to grant me one day 
** to prepare myfclf for this hafty bani/hment : fuffer me to provide 
" for the fecurityof my unhappy children, fincetheir father now dif- 
* ' dains to trouble himfelf with thefe tender cares. Oh, let compaf- 
^< fion touch thy heart ! Alas, thou art thyfelf a father, and mayft 
'* thou not feel the pangs of a parent reduced to the cxtremeft 
•* wretchednefs ? It is not my own misfortunes which I deplore ; 
** it is not my own banifhment which afFc<5ls me, it is their mifery 
'* which throws mc into defpair.". Moved with thefe affefting 
intreaties, Creon tells her, that he has not the heart of a tyrant. 
He grants her a day's delay, as we have already obferved; but it is 
upon condition that (he (hall be punifhed with death if after that 
- fpace (he is found in Corinth. This cruelty towards her increafcs 
the compaflion of the Chorus. 

Creon retires, and then Medea gives a loofc to rage. *' Could 
*« you fuppofe, fays (he, that Medea would have (looped to flatter 
•« a tyrant, but for the hope of vengeance ; at leaft I have pur- 
«« chafed the advantage of a day's delay from the unthinking trai- 
" tor jL precious day ! in ^hich the father, the daughter, and the 
^' hu(band (hall fall a facrifice to my wrougs." She then con(iders 
in what manner (he (hall deftroy them; (he fears not death, but 
of failing in her revenge, and of becoming the fcorn of her enemies. 
At length (he rcfolves to make u(e of magic philtres, or, in plain 
terms, of poifon. **But, iefumes(he, when I have facrificcd them, 
** where (hall I find an afylum, what friendly hand will lead me 
" from the danger ? I fee no fuccour, no re(burce for me. Well 
•* then, I will ftayj and relying upon the hope of fomefecure retreat, 
*' with fecrecy and (ilence I will compleat my vengeance: but 
** what if, I (hould be difcovercd, and be obliged inftantly to depart? 
^* yet ftill I will be revenged ; with my poniard will I pierce their 
*« hearts, and peri(h myfclf, rather than not fee them peri(h. 
'^ My rage no longer can be reftrained; it knows no bounds. No, 

G g g z << vene- 

412 M E D E Ai 

" venerable Hecate*, thou whom I have cho(en for my tutelary 
*' divinity, it (hall never be faid that my foes have with impunity 
** enjoyed the cruel pleafurc of fporting with my miferics; I will 
" change their hymenial joys into death and defolation. Go 
•* then, Medea, employ all thy enchantments, carry thy revenge to 
" cruelty : revenge thy monftrous wrongs, thou who art def- 
•* cended from the fun, all-powerful in charms and fpells; and 
** what is more, a woman, an injured woman; and therefore capa- 
** ble of die moft daring fchemes to fadsfy thy vengeance. Shalt 
" thou, Medea, become the jeft of the perfidious Jaibn, and the in- 
" famous defcendants of -f- S3rfiphus?" 

She retires; and the Chorus, who arc now wholly devoted to her, 
enjoy, by anticipation, the defigned vengeance of Medea, and the 
glory Ihe is preparing for the fex, by punifliing the perfidy of a 
hufband. This very Chorus, although they are ftruck with hor- 
ror at Jafon's crime, yet pretend to juftify the moft barbarous re- 
venge a wife thus injured can take : a pernicious moral, and wholly 
inexcufable here, but in confideration of the rage with which 
Medea had inflamed the hearts of thefe women, and the notion 
they had of the puniihment due to thofe hufbands who violate 
their conjugal faith. 


We have here, as in Virgil, an interview between a hufband and 
a wife defpifed and abandoned : a fcene which requires great 
delicacy to manage happily ; and which, even in this judicious 
poet, feems not faultle& ; for Eneas a6ts but a very indifferent part, 
as well as Pyrrhus, in Racine's Andromache ; but in my opinion 
Euripides has fucceeded beft. However, a fijtuation of this kind ^ 
being a fource of great beauties, a poet who was fond of the pa- 
thetic could not well omit it. 

Jafbn ^eaks firft, but his whole difcourfe is rather artful than 
folid. According to him, Medea has none but herielf to blame for 
her bani(hment from Corinth : fhe might have lived happily there 
if ihe could have fubdued her rage : her furious tranfports againft 
a great king reduced Jafon to the necefliity of concealing even his 
compaffion for her, and of thinking her happy in efcaping with a 
punifhment fo gentle as exile. He protefts that he has ufed his 
utmoft endeavours to foften Creon, but all were inefifedbual, becaufe 
Medea had enraged the king by the wild fallies of her fury. Jafon 

* The Moon, who is the Goddefs of Magicians, f An aacieot king of Corinth. 


M E D B A. 413 

howcv^ would at leaHaJBcvinte the misfiMrtunea of hie wife by af- 
fording her fbme relief in her banifhnaent. Medea, enraged at 
fuch a fpeech^ and at the infiilting offer he makes her, interrupts 
Jaibiij, and loads him with the hariheft epithets. She facrificed 
every thing for him ; (he even became criminal to ftrve him ; ihc 
had caufed the old king Pelia& to be murdered by his own daugh- 
ters; ihe preferved Jafcn from a thoufand dangers; by her aid it 
was that he pvcrcame the bulls who breathed out horrid flames ; 
by her he deceived the vigilance of the dragon who guarded the 
golden fleece ; and how has he rewarded her for fo many benefits? 
He repudiates her, and marries her rival before her face : fhe re- 
proaches him. with his violated faith, and all thofe deceitful vows 
of love which he had made her. ^' Say, purfues fhe, thus loaded 
»* with contempt and mifery, whither fhall I dired my fl:eps? to 
** my country, and to the palace- of my father ? Alas ! I have be- 
** trayed my country and my father for tliee. Shall I feek an 
" afylum with the unfortunate daughters of Pelias ? how will they 
" receive her who murdered their father? Alas F I have no longer 
'' relations and friends ; inhuman as thou art» I have facrificed 
" them all for thee, fec.'*^ Thefe fentiments are much the fame 
with thofe expreflcd by Hermione, when abandoned by Pyrrhus. 

'* Je ne t'ai pas.aim6, cruel : qu'ai-je done fait ? 
«* J'ai di^daign^ pour toi les voeux de tous nos Princes : 
•* Je t'ai cherche moi-meme au fbnds de tes Provinces ; 
«* Jy fuis encor tnHgri tes infid^t^s, &c." 

Medea's tranfports are flill greater ; for £he was more injuriouily 
treated than Hermione, who in Racine's tragedy is not the wife of 
Pyrrhus. Her children, reduced to a nuferable fllate of poverty by 
a father who coqfents to this baniihment, give new force alio to 
jier complaints and reproaches, which are but too well grounded. 

Jafon anfwers like a perplexed orator, who ieeks by artful eva- 
fiona to elude the force of ftrong arguments. To Venus, aJnd not 
to Medea, he attributes his fuccefs in his attempt to gain the 20K 
den fleece. Medea's paffion, he fays, forced her in fpite of her- 
felf to afllfl: him : a bad excufe tnis ; and therefore he ilightly 
pafles it over, and thinks himfelf fufficiently cleared of the charge 
of ingratitude^ fince be had requited her favoui:8 by bringing her 
from a barbarous region into Greece, a polifhed country, which re- 
verenced merit, and knew how to value the wit and knowledge 
that Medea poflTeflcd. This is a compliment to Greece ; but fo 
miiplaced and fo little fuitcd with a icene of this kind, that one 

z hardly 

414 M E D £ A. 

hardly knows how to mention it. With regard to his new mar- 
riage^ Jafon excufes it in a manner, which to the ancients alone 
could appear fupportable. He tells Medea, that in this marriage 
he fougnt only a royal alliance, and a neceflary fupport for her and 
her children. He was an exile like her, without friends or fupport ; 
a fad inheritance for an illuflrious poflerity ! This new marriage 
gives him dignity and wealth, and procures his children powerful 
friends. Jafon feems to exped that Medea fliould think herfclf 
obliged to him for a breach of faith which he proves to be fo 
highly advantageous for her. 

Cuftom fet afide, as a thing very different in different ages, we 
cannot but acknowledge that Pyrrhus in the Andromache of Ra* 
cine alledges ftill worfe reafons to Hermione for his treatment of 
her, when he tells her plainly, 

«• Je voulus m'obftiner i vous €tre iidelle : 

** Je vous re9us en Reine, & jufques i ce jour 

" J'ai crA que mesfermens me tiendroient lieu d'amour. 

*' Mais cct Amour Temporte, & par un coup funefte 

*' Andromaque m'arrache un coeur qu'clle deteile, 

•« L'un par Fautre entrain^s nous courons & Tautel 

" Nous jurer malgr^ nous un amour cternel." 

Jafon denies that it was love which made him break through 
his engagements with Medea : he inlifts that it was the intereft of 
his wife and his children which he confulted in his marriage with 
the Corinthian princefs. The Chorus tell him plainly that his ar- 
guments are indeed fpeciousj but that his conduct is wholly inex- 
cufable; and indeed me reafons urged by this prince for his infi- 
delity mufl certainly have appeared fpecious to thofe who were 
prcfent, fince Medea herfelf tninks them worthy of an apfwer. 

" I will confound thee, fays ihe, by a fingle word : why, if thou 
'* thoughtefl this marriage innocent, wouldft thou have concealed it 
** from mt ? No, no, adds (he, my intereft was not thy motive j 
'< thou defpifeft a foreign wife, and on? who is in the decline of 
-• age." 

Jafon perfifts in his defence; and, as a laft farewel, offers Me- 
dea money and pledges of hofpitality, * to be ufed in whatever foreign 

'* * In the original GreeKt ^^m»( n vlftvny *' fome people, to give to a friend, wife, or 

•« (V|MJ?«Xa, et ijgv^Hfi a h^ to fcnd pledges to " relation, the tefira be/pittJis; which was 

•* ftrangers or hofts, that they might ufe *• no other than a token to be (hewn occa* 

<« her well. It was a cuftom among the <* fionally, when the giver was abfent, as an 

*' aacieatSi and Indeed {ftiU prevails among •« evidence of his friendfhip and efteem.** 


MEDEA. 415 

country (he (hould fix her refidence. This will afford a fine fiib- 
jcdt for criticifin to the outrageous enemies of theatrical antiquity; 
but as it regards an ancient cuftom, it muft be afcribcd to the age 
in which Euripides wrote. I take notice of it here only to warn 
the reader, that it is not my defign either to difguife or embellifh 
this poet, although, in a regular tranflation, it would be but bare 
juftice to fubftitutc fomething in its place more agreeable to our 

Medea, always haughty and noble in her anger, refufes to accept 
of any afliftance from a perjured wretch. Jafbn takes the Gods 
to witnefs that he has ufed his utmoft endeavours in favour of 
Medea and her children : fhe'bids him go to his new bride, almoft 
in the fame terms as Hermionc fends Pyrrhus to Andromache* 

" Perfide, je le voi, 
*' Tu comptes Ics momens que tu perds avec moi ; 
** Ton cceur impatient de revoir ta Troycnne 
** Ne fouffre qu a regret qu'une autre t'entreticnne. 
<< Tu lui paries du coeur, tu lui paries des yeux. 
•* Je ne te retiens plus; fauvc toi de ccs licux : 
*V Va lui jurer la foi que tu m'avois iur^e; 
•' Va profaner des Dieux la majefte facr^« 
'' Ces Dieux, ces juftes Dieux, n'auront pas oublie 
*' Qh? ^^^ memes fermcns avec moi t'ont li6. 
*^ Porte au pied des autels ce coeur qui m'abandohne, 
*' Va, cours» mais crains encor d*y trouvcr Hermione." 

Medea's farewcl however is fhorter, and breathes more rage 
than Hermione's, and fb it (hould be. " Go to thv new bride; ah 
*' I perceive it! thou art miferable when abfcnt trom her, and I 
" detain thee too long. Go, hafte to the altar, conclude thy mar** 
** riage, which thanks to the Gods, thou fhalt long repent." 

The Corinthian ladies trace the misfortunes of Medea to their 
iburce, which is love. They fapplicate Venus, (who with the 
Grecian ChoruiTes is a very virtuous Goddefs) not to mingle the 
cares, the jealoufies, and the traniports of an extravagant paflionin 
their marriages. Afterwards renewing upon the banifhment of 
Medea, they rejoice in their own good fortune, which affords 
them the blcffing of dwelling in their native country; a bleffing 
enhanced by their compaffion forthe dreadful confequences of exile. 
Medea, meaik time, abforbed in her own refIe<ftions, continues upoa 
the flage« 


4i6 MEDEA. 

Egeus, king of Athens^ arrives all on a fuddcn, and as If he had 
fallen from the clouds. This is a perfonage introduced on purpofe 
to extricate Medea from her perplexity^ The king and Medea 
relate their adventures to each other: it* is eafy to perceive the 
defign of this fcene. Egeus is juft come from Delpbos^ whither 
he had been to implore an heir of Apollo, and had received a very 
obfcure oracle, for the interpretation of which he depended upon 
the wifdom of Pitheus, king of Trezene. Medea takes advantage 
of this opportunity to declare her wrongs to Egens : fhe implores 
his affiftance, and an afylum in his dominions, in the moA pathe- 
tic nianner imaginable ^ poooiiies that p return fhe will Uxtaifh 
him by her art with an iafalilbk fecret for the attainment of his 
deiires. Egeus engages in her interefts, but upon condition that (he 
will go to Athens without fuffering it to appear that this defiga 
had been concerted between them i olhdrwife Creon and Jafon 
would have a right to claim her, and bring her back by force* 
Medea promifes to be wholly directed by him ; but that (he may 
be aiTured of his protection, (ht requires an oath of him that he 
will not abandon* ner 2 and this undtr pretence that if the new-, 
made allies fhould demand an explanation cyf thiscondu^, his oath 
would (hield him from any reproadi. The oath is fwom after 
the manner of the Greeks, as we have atready fttn in the Iphi- 
genia in Tauris j and the C^ius^ difedted widi the generofity of 
Egeus, wifh him a happy return into his own d(Mninions, and all 
the good fortune which he fo ju^ merits. 

By this unexpeded fncQMtr Medea lees one ofa^acle leis to her 
defigned vengeance; (he is now provided with a fecure retreat. 
•' Now, oh Goddefs of vengeance, cries flip^ now I am fecure of 
•< triumphing over my enemies ! The way to vidlory is open to 
•* me, and hc^e begins: to revive in my heart/' Elated wim this 
hope, (he acquaints the Chorus wiui the plan ihe had [laid to 
compafs her revenge, which is to fend for Jaton, to regain his con- 
fidence and procure leave for her children toprefent a fatal gift to 
her rival. This is one part of her defigned vengeance only; at the 
bare idea of the reft which ihe does not declare^ ihe is ftruck with 
•horror. " I tremble, ikys (he, when t think of the horrid deed 
" which mu(LfQllQW : for oh my refblution is fixed 1 thefe hands 
" (hall dcffrby my children I" Medea fighs and weeps while (he 
pronounces ihefe words. Thefe returns of tendemefs are well ex- 
preiled in the French manner, in the opera of Theieus. 
^ ^ *' Ah 


M E B E A. 417 

** Ah faut*il me venger* 
' " Enperdantce quej'aime! 
Que fais-tu ma fureur ? Oil vas-tu m'engager ? 
Punir ce coeur ingrat, c*eft me punir moi-meme : 
J'en mouirai de douleur: je tremble d y fonger, 
" Ah faut-il me venger 
" En perdantce quej^aime! 
Ma rivale triomphe & me voit outrager. 
** Qupi, lai^r fon amour fans peine, & fans danger ! • 
** Voir le fpedlacle affreux de fon bonheur extreme ! 
*' Non, il faut me venger 
*' En perdant ce que j'aime. 

The Chorasy terrified and amazed, in vain endeavour to change 
the defign of this furious mother. They reprefent to her the hor- 
rid cruelty of arming her hands againft ner own children. Medea 
anfvirers, that their remonftrances come too late; that (he is deter- 
mined; and that) provided Jaibn bepufiiflied, (he cares not at v^hat 

Chorus.' What ! art thou a mother, and vrilt thou kill thy 

Medea. Yes, that I may wound Jafbn in his moft fenfible 

Chorus* And will not this ftroke recoil upon thyfelf ? 

Medea. It matters not. The die is caft : urge me no more. 

Medea, perceiving how much the Corinthian ladies were af- 
fe<fted with her dreadful refblution againft her children, requires a 
promife of fecrefy from them once more. Immediately (he fends 
one of her women to fcek Jafon. ** Go, fays fhc, I know thy fide- 
** lity ; go, bring hither my vidtim; thou, as my fervant, and my 
"confidant, ought doubly to affift my rage." 

The Chorus perfift in their endeavours to difluade Medea from 
her execrable purpofe. This part feems to have been fung. There 
are two ftanzas employed in celebrating Athens, of which the 
fenfe is arf'foflows : ** Oh Athens! Oh land beloved by the Gods! 
'* thou feat of wifdom, where the Mufes pour forth all their har- 
" mony ; where Venus, upon the banks of the Cephifus, ftieds ah 
** air as foft and fweet as the breath of Zephyrus, where Cypris, 
*^ crowning her lovely hair with flowers, leaves behind her the 
" tender loves and the genies which prefide over arts and fciences." 

•Thcfce Opera, Aft. V. Sc. i. 

Vol. II. Hhh The 

4i8 MEDEA, 

The Chorus, fuddenly interrupting themfelves, turn to Medea, and 
afk her " What reception (he expe&s that Athens, a city fo poliQied, 
" will afford a mother (lained with the blood of her own children?" 
Here they renew their fupplicaiions to her to fparc them, but 
in vain. 


Jafon, in compliance with the meflage fent him by Medea, 
comes to hear what (he has to fay to him. Medea pro(ecutes the 
defign (he had laid in the foregoing (bene, which anticipates this 
rather too much. She apologizes for the indecent traniports of 
her rage : (he acknowledges that (he had been to blame in oppo- 
fing a political marriage fo advantageous for her children, and even 
for herfelf. She goes fo far as to declare, that (he is willing 
to adift at the marriage, and to crown the bride with her own 
hands. She calls her children. ** Appear, fays (he, you dear 
** pledges of our union, be not afraid to (hew yourfelves; come 
** and embrace your father; ftifle our former hatred; my refcnt* 
<* mcnt ceafes, and I am reconciled to him. Come, kifs your fa- 
** ther's hand. Alas ! unhappy infants, will he long be yours? 
** Oh heavens ! what horrid ideas have I recalled to my remem- 
" brance! Terrorfeizes me, my heart melts withtendcrnefs, I cannot 
•• reftrain my tears." Her words here are ambiguous-, but Jafon 
attributes this tendernefs to a iincere repentance for what was paft. 
So capable is Medea of making even the emotions of nature lub- 
fervient to her artifice and revenge. Jafon commends her for hav- 
ing at laft opened her eyes to her true intereft : he a(rures his 
children that he will always love them with a father's afFedtioni 
he flatters them with the hope of being one day kings of Corinth ;^ 
^nd laftly, he wifhes, that when he may fee them again in a ma- 
turerage, he may find them worthy of him. " But why, fays he to 
*^ Medea, doft thou caft down thy eyes ? why art thou bathed in 
** tears ? Ah, replies (he, my children force thefe tears from me ! I 
'* am a mother; this wi(h, fa tender for them, which h?is efcaped 
" thee, awakes a fecret apprehenfion in my mind that it will ne- 
** ver be accomplifhcd." 

'Tis thus that Medea dilguifes the true caufe of her grief, and 
kads Jafon by degreesto the point (he wiflied; which is, to procure 
ti repeal of her children's bani(hment, through the interpofition of 
thi^ kind's daughter, Jafon promifes to make the attempt^ and flat- 

MEDEA. 419 

ters himfelf with, being able to fucceed by the method Medea had 
pointed out to him. Medea at length propofcs, in order to gain 
over the princefs entirely, to fend her by her children a prefent 
worthy of her acceptance ; a magnificent robe, and a golden crown. 
*^ Make hafte, fays fhe to her woman, and bring hither the pre- 
" fents I have deftined for the princefs. Happy, happy, is fhe, 
*' in being united to fuch a hufband as Jafon! (he is worthy 
" to poflefs the precious pledge which the fun my anceftorgave to 
** his pofterity. Come, my dear children, take this robe, and this 
^* crown, bear this ineflimable treafure to the royal bride/' 

Jafbn endeavours to hinder Medea frotn ftripping herfclf thus, 
for a queen who had no occafion for her gifts. ** Intoxicated, 
*« fays he, with her foolifh paffion, ihc will think the heart of 
*' Jafon more valuable than all the treafures of the world." " Ah, 
<* rcfumes Medea, the Gods themfclves are moved by gifts. Gold 
<* adts more powerfully upon the heart than the moft moving elo- 
^' quence : (he is a queen, flic is happy, and I am a poor wandering 
«* fugitive. I would buy off my children's baniftiment not only 
*^ with all my treafure, but with my life. Go then, my fons, pre- 
** fent yourfclves before my fovereign,.and your fathei's wife; in- 
•' treat, fupplicate her, obtain your pardon, and prevail upon her 
^* to receive the prefents you bring her. This is abfolutely neccf- 
•^ fary. Go, accomplifli my defign, and bring me the happy news 
** of your fuccefs." 

I have been very full upon this interefting icene, Co (hew that 
Jafon, after all, is rather too credulous. One would imagine that he 
ought to have known Medea too well to have been free from fuf- 
picion upon this occafion ; but it muft be acknowledged likewife, 
that men are blinded by their paflions ; and it is upon this princi- 
ple, that the little diftruft fliewn by Pyrrhus, in Racine's Andro- 
mache, is texcufable. 

After the departure of Jafon, the Chorus finifli the fcene : they 
forefee what is to happen; namely, that the princefs will be mur- 
dered by the fatal gifts of Medea, who has, they fay, adorned her 
for Pluto. 

The governor of Medea's fons enters, leading them to her. '* Thy 
•* children, fays he, are no longer baniflied ; the princefs received 
** thy prefent favourably." To this news Medea anfwers no other- 
wife than by fighs and tears, of which the governor, who is igno- 
rant of her defigns, is afloniflied fo much the more, as he had ex- 
padted to have.feeji her tranlported with joy. Shp orders him tq 

H h h 2 leave 

42a MEDEA. 

leave her; and addrefling herfelf to her two fons^ flic fays, *« You 

* hav-e then, my dear children, a fccurc retreat in this palace. Here 
« you will live in peace, but deprived of your mother; for I, alas! 
' muf!: wander throughout the world. I Ihall not enjoy that hap- 

* pinefs which I expedled from your maturer age. I fliall not 

* chufc you brides, nor kindle the nuptial torch for you. Fatal 

* confequence of my rage againft Creon ! Have I brought you into 

* the world then in vain ? have all the cares your helplefs infancy 
' coft me been fruitlefs ? I hoped that you would one day have been 
' my fupport; and that the laft duties would have been paid me by 
' thelc dear hands : but, oh ! what intercft have you in mc now ? 
' Separated /rom my children I am conflrained to drag a miferable 
' life, while you alio muft be tranipknted into a ftranger's family, 

* and no longer be cheriflied with a mother's tender love. Ah I 

* why do you look upon mc thus, my fons? why thefc fond, thefe 

* laft careflcs, why thefe tender fmiles which wring my heart ? 
' Alas ! my dear companions, what fhall I do? this fight melts my 
^ refolves, and quite difarms me ; but can I then fubfcribe to my 

* own barbarous decree ! No, toy children ft>all go with me. What, 

* (hall I, to punifli an ungrateful man, make toyfelf wretched for 
' ever? C^, not it muft not be. And fliall it then be faid that 

* the perfidious wretches enjoyed their guilt, and, /afe from venge- 

* ance, laughed at the miiferablcMcde^ ? Ah, all my rage returns ? 

* now every deed of horror (hall be adled; hence With this bafe foft- 

* nefs that could betray my refdiutions. Oo in, my <^hi)dran, I 
^ will follow you. Let the Gods and my enemies be witnefies of 

this facrificc, it matters not, I fliall not think my hands polluted 

by it Ah ! what am I going to do ? Oh my heart, yield not 

to this horrid aft ! I will ^pare my own blood; they Aall live, 
and be my comforts in my bs^nifliment. Oh no, by all the Gods 
I will not fufFer my cruel enemies to hurt their helplefs age! 
After what I havo done, my fons cannot efcape deaui. Well 
then, fince fuch is their fate, they fliall receive death from her 
^ who gave them life. Tis done, their fentencc is pronounced. 

* The fatal robe and crown have taken efFedl, the princefe expires* 
^ Fly then, Medea, haften thy vengeance, and call fhy children for 
^* the laft time : come, my fons, come and embrace your naotber.** 
Thefe laft endearments and thefe mutual embraces muft certainly 
have been extremely aflfeding in the reprefentation. Medea ftill 
hears the voice of nature; flie ftifles it at length, and difmiflesher 
children as before. •* Retire, my childen, leave me. I can no lon- 



*' ger fupport the fight of them ; I fink under the burthen of my 
•* woes. Alas ! I am fenfiblc of all the horror of the deed I am 
*' going to perpetrate ; but rage has banifhed reafon. What will 
^^ not defpair produce in the minds of wretched mortals/' 

There is nothing here from which we can collect, with any cer- 
tainty, whether Medea continues upon the ftage : It is very pro- 
bable that (he does; and that, wholly abforbed in her own gloomy 
thoughts, {he. waits for the event of herprefents. This appears by 
the beginning of the fifth adt, and by the tranquillity of the 
Chorus, who in concluding the fourth a<5t, indulge their reflec-? 
tions upon the cares and anxieties which a mother's fondnefs fop 
her children neceflarily create to her. They draw a comparifon 
between the married and the fingle ftate, and prefer the undifturbed 
calm of the latter to all the painful advantages of the former^ 
This moral is very beautiful, but certainly it is not ipirited enough, 
after a fituation fo full of horror as Medea's in the former fcenc* 
The truth is, that it appears to be introduced expreQy with the 
finging, to foften the impreffion that fcene had made upon the 
minds of the audience; and to prepare them, by a gentle and im^ 
perceptible paflage, for ftill greater efforts of paffion. For, as Bgi^ 
Icau fays, ipeaking of him who writes a tragedy : 

^* n faut qu'en cent fagons pour plaire il fe replie, 

" Que Unt6t il s'^leve, & tant6t s'humilie: 

«« Qu en nobles fentimens il foit par tout f<6cond : 

*^ Qu^il foit aifc, folide, agreable, profond : 

** Que dc traits furprenans fans ceffe il nous reveille, 

" Qull coure dins fes vers de mcrveille en mervcillc, 

*• Et que tout ce qu'il dit facile a retenir 

^^ De fon ouvrage en nous laiflle un long fouyenir* 

** Ainfi la Tragcdie marche, agit, s'cxplique." 

Such is the art of Euripides ; and I do not at all doubt, but 
that his fevereft cenfurers will allow him part at lead of thofe talents 
which Defpreaux here requires in a tragick poet ; and that in par* 
ticular which he wifhes all poets ihould pofifefs. 

*' J^f ureux qui dans ces vers f9ait d'une voix legere 
^ Pafier du grave au doux> du plaifant au £6y^rc.'^, 


422 MEDEA. 

A C T V. 

Medea, impatient to know the jcfFedi of her prelents, which fhc 
thinks too long delayed, fees on a fudden one of Jafon's fervants, 
in whofe looks, full of terror and amazement, fhe difcovers that all 
is grief and defolation in the palace. . This man, through fome re- 
mains of tendernefs for his former queen, cries out, as foon as he 
perceives her, '• Fly, unhappy princefs, fly. Oh! what more doft 
«* thou with for? Glauca and Creon expire, the viftims of thy bar- 
** barous gifts/' Medea, to compleat her joy, obliges him to tell 
her eveiy circumftancc of this horrid fccnc. ** To know, fays fhe, 
•* that tneir puniftiment has been fevere, will increafe my fatisfac- 
'* tion/' • The officer relates whaj had happened in the following 
manner : " When we faw Jafon leading his fons into the nuptial 
" apartment, we began to hope for a happy reconciliation : the report 
•* of which had fpread all over the court. The courtiers croud 
" about the young princes, fome feized their hands, others embraced 
" tliem; myfelf, tranfportcd with joy, followed them into the wo- 
" men's apartment. The princefs accofted Jafon with a fmiling 
*^ afpeft, but as foon as (he perceived his children, fhc haftily turned 
" away hcrcycs, as ifthcy had beheld fomething horrible. However, 
** Jafon foon difarmed her indignation with thele words: Liften 
'* no longer to thy refentment, princefs; why doft thou turn 
^* ^way thy eyes ? hate not the children, if thou loveft the father, 
^* but deign to receive the prefents they brin^ thee, and obtain their 
** pardon of the king : let thefe children experience the tendernefs 
" thou haft for their father. The fight of the prefents foftened 
" the princefs; Ihepromifed all he defired, and, delighted with 
*' the extraordinary magnificence of the .robe and crown, ftie was 
*' impatient for the departure of the princes, that ftie might adorn 
*« herfclf with them. With her own hands (he put the crown up- 
** on her head, and confulted her glaft in what manner to difpofe 
'* her fiovnng hair : {he tafted a fecTet pleafure in beholding her- 
" felf thus magnificently arrayed: (he rofe from her chair, (he 
** walked about the room, often gazing in the glafs, with airs that 
** fliewed the vanity with which (he was intoxicated ; but in a few 
** moments what a frightful change cnfued ! We perceived her 
** countenance alter, her knees fmote each other, and (he funk upon 
'* her throne. One of her women, who thought ftie was ftruckby 
** the God Pan, or fome other offended divinity, terrified and ama- 
*' ?ed, called aloud for afliftance : and now wc faw the foam ga- 

y they 

ME D E A. 423 

^ thcr on her lips, her eyes looked wild, a deadly palenefs over- 
** ipread her face, ihe fent forth dreadful cries. The whole court 
** was in the utmoft confternation : her frighted women ran here 
'* and there, not knowing what they did.' Some flew to acquaint 
** the king, others to tell Jafon the dreadful accident ; riiean time, 
*' the princefs, ftretched on her bed, lay without voice or motion ; 
'* when on a fudden fhe breathed a figh, and opened her eyes -, but 
** it was only to ftruggle with new torments ; for from the coronet 
*' broke forth flames that furrounded her head, while the poifoned 
** robe confumed her body. The flames now fpreading all over 
** her, fhe would have fledfrom herfelf 5 fliefhookher hair, fhe en- 
*\ deavoured to tear off the fatal crown. Vain efforts ! the fire grew 
<* fiercer; at length fhe funk again upon her bed, her beauteous 
** form fo altered that fhe cotfld fcarce be known but by a father. - 
** The luftre of her eyes was gone; her very hue was changed ta 
** afhy palenefs ; flreams of blood flowed down her ghaftly face ^ 
♦« her hairs dropt off like fparks from a flaming brand; the flarting 
** bones were feen. Her attendants, not daring to touch her burn- 
'* ing body, fland at a diflance, fcarce able to bear the fight of it. 
" At length her wretched father entered ; and with doleful fhrieks 
** threw himfelf by the body of his daughter, ignorant, alas ! how 
** fatal this lafl: embrace would be to him : he held her fafl clafp- 
<* ed in his arms. Oh, my unhappy child, cried he, whom the 
** Gods have fo cruelly flruck, to precipitate my old age into the 
** tomb; for I will follow thee, my daughter to the fhades! After 
" thefe firfltranfports of grief, he attempted to rife; but his daugh- 
** ter's fatal ornaments ftuck clofe to his body, like the ivy to the 
*' laurel. In vaia he endeavoured to tear them thence; his burn- 
«• ing flefh came oflf at every trial ; his flrength abandoned him, 
<« and he expired holding his daughter in his arms : and now both 
** father and daughter lie extended on the earth ; a fpedtacle 
«* capable of moving even your heart." Here'the officer concludes 
his narration, advifing Medea to make her efcape inflantly. He 
adds a fentencc, or a refledion, upon the inflability of human things *, 
and the Chorus pity the king's daughter^ who had fufFered the 
punifhment due to Jafon. 

It is here that Medea, when the officer is departed, fortifies her- 
felfin her refolution to execute her lafl vengeance,, which it had 
cofl her fuch agonies to think of. ** But now, fhe J%s, it is become 
^* impoflible to preferve her children from the rage of Creon's 
*J friends, who will doubtlcfs revenge his death. They mufl die 

^ incvi- 

4S4 M E D B A. 

*' inevitably ; and It is a mother's part to pierce their tender bofbms. 
*^ Death will come more gently from her hand than from thai 
<' of an enemy/* This is the fame thought and the fame 
verfes repeated. " Well then, my heart, arm diyfelf with cruelty; 
^' why this pang ? no longer defer a horrid but necefiary crime. 
^< Take this poniard, oh hand fated to guilt 1 take it, and cut fhort 
•* the thread of two wretched children's lives. Ah, ceafe to trem- 
'* ble ; but forget that thou art going to ftain thyfelf with 
** thy own blood. Oh, my fons ! oh dear torturing remem- 
'• brances ! And am I then a mother ? but, no, I will forget, for this 
^' day at leafl, that I am fo: tears and mourning (hall have their 
'• turn ; my fons will be no lefs dear to me, but I (hall be more 
« miferable," 

Here (he retires in order to execute her defign. The Chorus, 
full of terror and amazement, (hriek aloud, and conjure the fun, 
Medea's anceftor, to ftop the rage of this inhuman mother. They 
afterwards addrefs Medea herfelf : they make ufe of threats,but 
all to no purpo(c. They hear the cries of her children, like vic- 
tims ftruck by the hand of the facrificcr, and endeavouring to avoid 
new wpunds. The Corinthian ladies endeavour in vain to force 
an entrance; they have recourfe to tears and cries, to awaken com- 
pa(fion in this other Ino; for this is the name they give her, bccau(e 
* Ino had thrown herfelf into the (ea with her fon Melicerta. This 
hi(tory, (hort as it is, feems cold and fpiritlefs, in a fcenp fo full of 
pafljon ; and amidft deeds fo dreadful as thofe which Medea is 

In the mean time Ja(bn, comes to puni(h Medea for her cruelty; 
but his chief folicitude is to prefervc his fons from the vengeance ' 
of the royal family, and the Corinthians. He is informed that 
his children is (lain by the hands of their mother ; and, wild with 
grief and rage, he attempts to break open the doors ; but Medea 
raifes herfelf in the air in a chariot, which the Sun her anceftor 
bad given her. Horace -f and Seneca J fay that this chariot wa$ 

* Ino was the daughter of Cadmus and as the poet fiiys, fhe threw herfrlf into the 

Harmonia. Inflamed with rage againft A- fea, with her other fon, Melicerta. Medea 

thanias, her hufband, who had killed her imitated her but in part. 
{on, Learchus, and feized with a divine fury, 

t Hscc delibutis ulta donis pellicem 

5erpente 'fiigit alite. Hor. Epod. 3. 
X Squamofa gemini colla ferpentis jugo 
* Summifliapracbent. Senec. Med. ▼• 1021. 

I drawh 

MEDEA, 425 

^drawn by winged dragons. Euripides is filent concerning this 
circumftance, which is indeed of little importance. 

Notwithftanding that the unravelling oi' this play, as well as the 
deaths of Glauca and Creon, is effedled bymagick, yet it produces 
a very interefting fituation; which is the parting of Jafon and Me- 
dea. She bids him ceafe his fruitleis efforts to flop her. Corneillc 
has taken the fenfe of this fpeech in the following lines ^ 

** Qjie fert de t'emporter a ces vaines furies? 
" Epargne, cher 6poux, les efforts que tu perds : 
** Voi les chemins dc Fair qui me font tons ouverts; 
** C efl par-la que je fuis, & que je t'abandonne" 

*'* Barbarous mother, exclaims Jafon; oh monflcr, execrable 
^« to Gods and men ! how wert thou able to plunge a dagger 
^*into-the bofoms of thy children, to ftrike nae in them and through 
" them ? how canfl thou behold the light after Xuch a deed ?" He 
afterwards reproaches Jier with all her crimes. ** What madnefs 
" pofibft mc, fays he, to bring fiich a fury with me into Greece ?** 
Medea tells him, that {he had ilill too many inftances of treachery 
to charge hini with, tho' the Gods were not witneffes of the con- 
dud of each of them. " What! purfues fhe, was it fit that I 
" fliould fuffer an ungrateful wretcn to be happy and triumph in 
•* his infidelity? No, call me barbarian, load me with names more 
'^ hateful ftill; it is fatisfadtion enough for me that I am revenged, 
*' and I enjoy thy mifery." This is the fenfe at leaft of her 

Jason. Cruel woman, thou haft revenged thyfelf at thy own 

Medea, It matters not at what price, £0 a poAiious traitor 
laughs not at the injury he has done Medea. 

Jason. My dear children, to what a mother did you owe your 
birth! {Here it mujl be obferved that be fees their bleeding bodies in 
their mother's chariot.) 

Medea. My dear children, it was your father's perfidy that 
«)bbed you of your lives. 

* Gafper St^bltn, a commentator,] gives epithets of reproach are much the fame 

us a lift of the ten reproachful epithets that with thofe which are fufFered at prefent «n 

Tafon ufes in this fcene to Medea. Cer- the ftage ; and we cannot without ii^uftice 

tainly they are not of importance enough charge it as a ikult to Euripides, Ihe making 

to defenre this cxaanefe. However thcfe ufe of them. 

Vol. Jl- lii JascN 

426 MEDEA. 

Jason. But my hand was not (lained with their blood. 

Medca. It did worfc. It betrayed me. 

JASoN. Ought fo fmall a crime to have been thus cruelly pu* 
nifhed ? 

Medea. Perfidious man, dareft thou call the outrage I have 
fuffered from thee fmall ? doft thou know the heart of a woman ? 

Jafon demands the bodies of the children, at leaft) that he may 
bury them ; but this Medea refufes : (he tells him, that (he will 
hide thefe fad remains in the temple of Juno, that her enemies 
may not wreak their fury on them. She adds alfo, that (he will 
inditute feftivals and folemn expiations at Corinth, to appea(e 
their manes. It was thefe feftivals and thefe expiations, probably, 
which occa(ioned the common opinion, that the Corinthians had 
flaughtered thefe children at the altar, where Medea had left them 
when (he fled from Corinth, according to another tradition. As 
for her, (he fays, Athens (hall behold her again in the quality of 
wife to Egeus. She then foretells Jafon, that after having lived long 
enough to feel the whole weight of his misfortunes, he (hould pe- 
ri(h at length under tl^e wreck of the Argonaut's ve(Iel -, which 
happened accordingly ; for as he lay fleeping one day under the 
fhelter of this (hip, it fell on his head and killed him. 

Jason. May vengeance and the furies rcferve for thee the pu- 
ni&ment due to parricides. 

Medea, What God, thinkeft thou,, will hear the prayers of a 
perjured and imfnous wretch like thee ? 

Medea clofes her fareWell by this bitter irony : " Go pay the 
** laft duties to thy bride ; thou feelefl: not yet all thy miferies, 
«• Time and old age fhall revenge me daily.'* Yet there are (bmct 
tender fentiments ; as for example, Jafon exclaims, " Oh my 
•* loved children f" 

Medea. Yes, beloved by their mother, but not by thee. 

Jason. Inhuman woman ! and yet thoa murderedil diemu. " 

Medea. I killed them to puni(h thee. 

Jason. Alas! miift I not embrace ^em at lead:. 

Medea. This tendicrnefs comes tpo late ; didft thou not ba:^^ 
mih them ? 

Jason. I conjure thee, in the name of the Gods^ grant me 
this melancholy confolation. 

Medea. No, all thy efforts are fruitle(s. 

Jafon, delivered over to his defpair, calls the Gods to witne(s ta 
.ihis barbarous refu(al^ and indeexi nothing could be more affedt-- 

M E 




ing, according to the notions the ancients entertained concerning 
the dead, and the rites of burial. We have an exanniple of a re- 
fufal of this kind in the Phcenicians. This was the laft ftrokc 
which Medea referved for her ungrateful hulband ; and this com- 
pleats the tragic aftion, Medea, after having beheld him Ian* 
guifliing thus under her protrafted revenge, flies away in her en- 
chanted Chariot *• 

• Sueh is the tragedy of £unpide$» 
founded upon the Grecian hlftoiy of his 
time; or rather, upon the fabulous tradi* 
tions: for, according to Herodotus, the 
Perfians related the rape of Medea, by 
Jafon, in a manner very different from 
the Greeks, as they did of all thofe which 
laid the foundation of an irreconcileable 
hatred between the Greeks and the Afi- 
aticks. The firft rape, fay the PerHans, 
was that of lo, the daughter of Inachus, 
king of Argos, by ibme Phoenician mer- 
chants, who carried her into Egypt. The 
fecond rape was that of Europa, the 
daughter of the king of Tyre» who was 

carried off by the Cretans, to revenge 
theitifelves on the Phoenicians. Medea's was 
the third; Ihe was carried away from Col- 
xhos by Jafon, and demanded, to no 
purpofe, by the king her father, who al- 
leged the rape of lo, for which they had 
receired no reparation, as a reafon for 
denying his requeft. In the following age, 
Paris, the fon of Priam, dole Helena from 
the Greeks, who were the firft that took 
revenge for an injury which the Afiaticks 
had always put up with. Hence arofe that 
reciprocal hatred, which in after-ages filled 
Europe and Afia with the fiames of war* 

11 * 


ME D E A' 



TH E firft a£t confifts of two fcenes^ a foliloquy fpoken by 
Medea, and another by the firft perfon of the Chorus. 
Medea explains the fubjedt, by addreffing her prayers to the Gods, 
the revengers of violated faith: fhe conjures them to punifh 
her perfidious hufband. P. Corneille has tranflated this fcene al- 
moft word for word, as he has done all thofe of Seneca's^ which 
were in the leaft degree interefting. I (hall give the reader Se- 
neca's firft fcene of the Medea, as it is improved by this great 

" Souverains protedteurs des loix de Fhymence, 

'* Dieux, garans de la foi que Jafon m'a donnfe, 

" Vous qu'il prit a t^moin d'une immortelle ardeur 

'^ Quand par un faux ferment il vainquit ma pudeur, &c." 

Seneca names all thefe Gods, which his judicious imitator 
does not. 

" Et vous troupe f^avante en noires barbaries, 
" Filles de I'Achcron, peftes, Larves, furies, 
" Fieres foeurs, fi jamais notre commerce ^troi 
" Sur vous & vos ferpens me donna quelque drdi 
** Sortez de vos cachots avec les mcmes flamnies, . 
** Et les memes tourmons dont vous genez les ames.'* 

Seneca fays, " Come from Hell, fuch as thou appearedft at my 
marriage*" This is ftronger. 

^* Ap. 

MED E A. 429 

♦^ Apportez-moi du fond des antres de Megcre 
**"La mort de ma rivale & celle de fon pere, 
" Et C\ vous ne voulez mal fervir mon courroux, 
** Quelque chofe de pis pour mon pcrfide epoux. 
" Qu^il co^ire vagabond de province en province j 
^ Qu^il f^e lachement la Cour a chaque prince 
** Banni de tons c6tes, fans bien & fans appui^ 
" Accajile de frayeur, de mifere^ d'enniii. Sec." 

In the JLatin poet, Medea fays a great deal more, yet in fewer 
words^ upbn the article of Jalbn's inconftancy; for when Ihe 
would implore of the Gods a feverer vengeance on him, fhe ex- 
prefles herfelf thus : Let bim live. It is true that ihe afterwards 
adds what Corneille makes her fay ; but perhaps it would have 
been fufficient if (he had only faid. Let bim live wretched: or rather 
not to have added any thing at all, that the fublimity of that ftrokc 
might not have been weakened. 

We may from thefe paflages judge of the whole fcene. Here 
then .the tragic adion probably begins. The raging Medea, in 
ordei: to. be revenged on Jafon, determines to punifh her rival, 
whom Si&neca calls Creufa ; and to facrifice Creon alfo, the father 
of that princefs. The Chorus, without informing us who they 
are, (for we onlyguefs that they are Corinthian ladies) fing a kind of 
nuptial hymn in honour of the new-married pair. Sucli is the 
firft aft of Seneca's Medea,, which is certainly, greatly inferior to 
that of Euripides.. 


The preparations for Jafon's nuptials add new (lings to the 
jealou(y and rage of Medea : here (he gives us a declamatory 
fpeech, as in the preceding a£t. But her tendernefs is awakened 
at the fame time, and (hefeeks for reafons to juftify an unfaithful 
but flill -loved hufband. It is certain that thefe reafons are (pe- 
eious enough ; for Seneca ingenioufly fuppofcs, that Jafon could 
no otherwife avoid death, than by accepting the hand of Creula^ 
A-caftus, the fon of Pelias, had threatened to lay Corinth wafte, un- . 
Ie(s Creon would deliver Jafon and Medea into* his hands. Jafon 
had the good fortune to find favour with Creon, who promiferf to 
protedlhim, provided he would marry his daughter; buttoappeafe 
Acaftus, it was nece(rary that Medea (hould be delivered up to him. 
Medea therefore is the only flate-vidlim which, is facrificed in 


430 MEDEA* 

Seneca. This happy artifice has been imitated by Corncille; and 
is the hinge upon which the French as well as the Latin tragedy 
turns. Thus, in Seneca's fecond a<5l, Medea fecretly acquits Jafon 
of anv crime, and fatisfies herfclf with her intended revenge upon 
Crcufa, becaufe (he is her rival ; and upon Creon, becaufe he vio- 
lates the laws of hofpitality. Medea's confidant exhorts her mi- 
ftrefs to conceal her rage atleaft ; and here we have that beautiful 
paffagc, which Corneille has rendered witH all its faults*. 

** Nerine. ForcczTaveuglement dont vous etes feduitc 
*^ Pour voir en quel 6tat le cici vous a reduite. 
*' Votrc pais vous hai, votrc epoux eft fans foi ; 
** Dans un fi grand rcvers que vous reftct'il ? 

«' Me'de'e. Moi : Moi, dis-je, & c'cft afiez. 

<« Nerine. Quoi, vous feule> madame ! 

«' Me'de'e. Oui, tu vois en moi feulc &lefer & la flame> 
" Et la tcrrc & la mer, & Tcnfcr, & les cieux, 
** Et le fceptre des rpis, & la feudre des dieux." 

This word moi, which to De/preaux appeared fo iublime, 
and fo little of a piece with what follows, as running unnecefla- 
rily into length, which makes the thought cold and languifhing, 
is copied exactly from the Latin poet. 

** NuTRix. Abicre Colchi, conjugis nulla eft fides: 
«' Nihilque fupereft opibus i tantis tibi. 
" Medea. Medea fupereft. Hie mare & terras vides, 
" Ferrumquc ^ ignes, & Deos & fulmina." 

At length Medea confcnts to fave herfelf by flight ; but deter- 
mines to make her farewel bloody, and to leave dfeadful tokens 
of her vengeance behind her. 

Creon, who had doomed her to baniftiment, comes to prefs her 
to quit his dominions inftantly. This fcene is an imitation of 
Euripides, and if it has lefs fimplicity, yet it has much more wit. 
Corneille has done little more than tranflatc it, without omitting 
any of its faults or beauties. Here follows fome paflages of it; 
we will begin with the faulty ones : 

«* Quoi, je te vois encore ! avec quelle impudence 
. *« Pcux-tu fans t'efFrayer foutenir ma prefencc ? 
•* Ignores-tu larret de ton banniflcment ? 
«* Fais-tu fi peu de cas de mon commandement ? 

" Voytz 

-• P. Corn. Medee, Aft. i. 




Voyez comme elle s'enflc, & d'orgueil & d'audace : 
Ses yeux nefont que feu, fcs regards que menace. 
Gardes, empeche;p-la de s'approcher de moi." 

This laft line, in particular, is unworthy of a king. 

" Arcete famuli taftu & acceffu procul.'" 

Euripides has not given this unworthy fear to Creon; but in 
the following lines there are beauties which belong wholly to Se- 
neca and Corncille, and which have no foundation in the Greqjc 
poet. Creon reproaches Medea with having betrayed her country; 

*• Si j^euflc eu de Thorreur de tant d'enormes fautes 

'* Que devenoient Jafon & tous vos Argonautes ? 

*' Sans moi cc vaillant chef que vous m'avez ravi. 

** Eut peri le premier, & tous I'auroient fuivi.— • 

** Je vous les ai iauves,^e vous les cede tous : 

** Je nen veux qu'un pour moi: n'en foyez point jaloux. 

" Pour de fi bons cfEbts laiflez moi Tinfidelle: 

" II eft mon crime feul, fi je fuis criminellc. 

** Aimer cet inconftant, c'eft tout ce que j'ai fait; 

*^ Si vous me puniflez, rendez-moi mon forfait/' 

Thefe fentiments are indeed rather fparkling thanjuft; but 
yet thoy are ingenious'; and this kind of ornament may iometimes 
give luftre to a tragic fcene, efpecially when it is wrought by the 
hand of a mafter, fuch as the great Corneille : however I will 
venture to aflert, although I run the hazard of being blameA by 
the paffionatc admirers of that truly fublime genius, that he feems 
often to run too eagerly in purfuit of what is called wit; which is 
the caufe that he fcxnetime falls into an affedtation of it, His 
tragedies abound with whole fcenes in thisfalfc tafte: throughout 
the whole tragedy of Horace, in whi' h, neverthelefs, there arc 
many fublime p£^ag€S, we find him playing upon the names of 
iifter, and l6ver^ brother, and hufband, Alba, and Rome. It is 
Seneca and Lucan who have formed this turn of wit in P. Cor- 
neille ; yet is he happy, that in the ftrength of his own genius he 
found a fufEcient refource to hinder him from flavifhly following 
*the^ whem- k» c o n defccn dcd talook upon as bi$ mafters, and has 
chofen for his guides* 

6 At 

4ja M E D E A- 

At length Crcon grants Medea a fingle day to prepare for her 
departure, as Euripides makes him do: the Chorus, as ufual, 
fing an ode ; the fubje€t of which is, the voyage of the Argonauts, 
In tliis ode there is a parody of thefe verfes of Horace, 

* *' Olli robur & a?s triplex 
•** Circa pedtus erat qui fragilem truci 
^^' Commifit ^elago ratem." 


The third ad: begins, like the preceding one, with a converfation 
between Medea and her confidant. In this fcene there is nothing 
new. Medea is furious, and her confidant endeavours to calm her 
imprudent tranfports. The vilit which Jafon makes her is not 
well prepared; for 'Seneca had no tafte for thefe delicacies of the 
drama. However^ the interview between Jafon and Medea is full 
of beauties. There is even a judicious contrivance in it, which Eu- 
ripides has not employed ; or, at leaft, has not employed fo hap- 
pily. Jafon's infidelity to Medea is, in fome meafure, extenuated 
by the neceflity he was under of either marrying Creufa, or of 
fufl^ering his children to be delivered up to Acaftus, who threat- 
ned to put them to death, as' well as Jafon. Corneille has taken 
this whole fcene from Seneca, with this ingenious artifice, which 
enables Jafon to fupport his part in this converfation tolerably 
well, and keeps up Medea's dignity. She fays to him as in 
Euripides : 

*^ Ou me renvoyez-vous fi vous me banniflczj * 

** Iraije furle phafe, ou j'ai trahi monpere, 

*' Appaifer de mon fang les manes de mon frerej 

** Irai-je en Theffalie oii le meurtre d'un roi 

^' Pour viiflime aujourd'hui ne demandc que moi. 

*' Prodiguc de mon fang, honte de ma famille, 

** Aufli cruelle foeur, que dcSloyalc fiUe, 

*• Ces titres glorieux plaifoient a mes amours: 

*' Je Jespris fans horreur pour conferver tes jours." 

Thefe kft lines have fHll greater force in Seneca. " I curled 
*« away with me, when I fled, nothing but the fcattercd limbs of 

•Horace, Ode III. 1. i. 


M E D E A: 433 

my brother Abfyrtus, who wa$ flaughtered by thefe hands. For 
thee I murdered him ; for theel have facrificed my country, my 
-father, my fame; fuch was my portion. Reftore me what I 
brought thee/* 

Nil exul tuU 
Nififratriiortusi hoc qucque impendi tibi 
^Tibi patria cejit, tibi pattr^f rater ^ pudovy 
Hdc dote nupfi. Redde fugienti fua, 

Thefe Lines alfo are copied from Euripides. 

Jason. Objicere crimen quodpotes tandem mibi? 
Medea, ^^dcumquefeci. 

MEDE'i). " Ouije te les reproche, & de plus — 

Jason. *« Quels forfaits? 

Mede E. ^* La trahifon, le meurtre, & tous ceux que j'ai faits. 

And the following ones. 

Jason. Hinc re^ & inline. 

Me d e a. EJi & bis major metus Medea. 

Jason. '* II eft aife de fuir : mais il n'eft pas facile 

" Contre deux Rois aigris de trouver un afyle. 

*' Qui leur refiftera s'ils vientient a s'unin ; 

Mede'e. ** Qui me reiiflera fi je tc veux punir?'* 

Medea being forced to fubmit to exile, demands her children at 
leaft; Jafon cannot fefolve to part with pledges fo dear to him j 
^pon which Medea fays. 

Sic grjdtos amat. 
Beni efl : tenetur; vtdneri patuit locus. 

^* II aime fes &nfans ce courage inflexible : 
•^* Son foible eft decouvert: pareux il eft fenfible, 
•* Par eux mon bras arme d'une jufte rigueur 
*' Va trouver des chemins a lui pcrcer. le coeur," 

Jafon retires, and now Medea forms the defign of poifoning, by . 
her magical arts, the robe and coronet, which (he defigns for pre- 
fents to her rival. The Chorus feem to be witnefles of all this; 
at leaft they are prefent at great part of the theatrical aftion, and 
are acquainted with the fcheme of revenge formed by Medea. 

Vol. II. K k k ' I 


434 M E D E A« 

I mention this exprefly, to (hew that P. CorneiUe is iniftaken 
when he gives it as his opinion, that the Chonis are not with 
Medea when (he takes tho(e horrid reiblutions againft her rival ^ 
yet it is certain that the interlude of this aft and the following on« 
turn upon the rage and the menaces of this princefs, and give 
room for a great number of moral (entences, which are of no ufe, 
and extremely tirefome, upon the rage of injured wives. 

There is a very flriking difference between the Chorus* of Se- 
neca, and that of Euripides. In the laMer poet, the Chorus is 
compofed of Medea's friends, whom her artifice and her misfor- 
tunes engaged in her intcrefts; fhe might fccurely therefore in- 
truft them with her fchemes-of revenge. But it 46 not fo in-. Se- 
neca, where the Chorus do not appear to have? any connection with . 
Medea ; and are only introduced to fill up.the void between each adt : . 
and from the very firft ad, they are fo fac from pitying Medea, , 
that they celebrate by fongs the nuptials of Jafon and Creufa. 
^his difference fully lemoves the objections that are made to. 


The fourth aft is very remarkable, as well for the extravagance 
which it is fuUof, as for thfe beauty of a fcheme that is executed 
▼ery iD. It confifts of twofccnes. In the firft the confidant en- 
ters to acquaint the audience, th^t hertnUtrefs is employed in ma- 
gical preparations. But how does (he tell* them this ? by the def- 
cription^of a great number of ferpents,- infeCts, and monfters, 
which.Medeahad in aninftaot collected from, the two^xtreoiities 
of the world. The confidant afterwards defcribes: the venemous 
herbs (he makes ufe of, without forgetting, I believe, to name the 
countr]( where any one was to be found. We meet with this 
kind of gcograi^ical deicription in oth^r authors of that age : it 
was the prevailing tafte. Seneca has taken alL this from. a paf- 
fage in Ovid^ who, in the feventh book" of his Metamorphofes, 
falls exa^y into the fam^ fault. It, is a great deal of learning 
thrown away. 

** Poftqtiam evocavit omne ferpentOim genus 

** Congeritin unum frugis infauftae mala ; 

** Quaecunque generat invlusfaxis Erix, 

** Qga fert opertis hiems perpetuS jugis 

** Sjparfus cruore Caucafus Promethei ; 

« PharetrSquic pugnax Medus^ aut Parthus levisj ' 

M E D E A, 435 

^ Et qiieis fagittas divites Arabes linunt : 

** Aut quos fub axe frigido fuccos Icgunt 

*' Lucis Suevi nobilcs Herclniis. 

" Quodcumque tellus vcrc nidifico creat ; 

*' Aut rigidi cum jam bruma difcuffit decus 

** Nemorura, & nivali cunda conftringit gela. 

** Quodcumque gramen flore mortifero viret, 

** DiruTve tortis fuccds in radicibus 

" Caufas nocendi gignit, attreOsat manu. 

^' ^monius illas contulit peftcs Athos j 

^* HasPindusingcnsj ilia Pangei jugis 

** Teneram crucnta falcc depoluit comam > 

" Has aluit ahum gurgitcm tigris premens; 

" Danubius illas : has per arentes plagas 

** Tcpidis Hydafpcs Gemmifer currens aquis, 

** Nomenque tcfris qui dedit Baetis fuis 

" Hefperia pulfans marialanguenti vado, &c*/* 

** Subllmis rapitur. Subjedaque ThefTala Tempc 

" Defpicit, & Creteis rcgionibus applicat angues: 

^^ Et quas OfTa tulit, quas altus Pelion herbas, 

** Othryfquc, Pindufquc, & Pindo major Olympus 

" Perfpicit, ct placita partim radice rcvellit^ 

" Partim fiiccidit curvaminc falcis ahenae, 

" Multa quoque Apidani placuerunt gramina campis, 

** Multa quoque Amphryu: neque eras immunis, Enipeu : 

" Ncc non Peneae, nee non Spcrcheides undas 

** Contribuere aliquid, juncofaque litora Baebes. 

^' Carpit & Euboi'ca vivax anthedone gramen 

** Nondum mutato vulgatum corporc Glauci^ f^c-^-." 

Here are the herbs that .were gathered to reftore ^fon to youth 
In the following lines we have the con^pofition of Ac drugs, an4 
the magical preparation. 

** Interea validum "pofito medicamcn aheno 

** Fervet & exultat, fpumifque tumentibus albet. 

^ lUic Haemonia radices valle refedlas 

** Seminaque florefque & fuecos incoquit ^cres.: 

•i. An. Seneca. Medea> A. lY. .+ Ovid. Met 1. 7, 

Kkk2 '^Ad- 

436 MEDEA. 

" Adjicit extreme lapides Oricntc petitos, . • 

" Et quas Oceani ftfluum mare lavit Arenas* 

•* Addit & exceptas luna pcrnodte pruinas; 

" Et ftrygis infames ipfis cum carnibus alas j 

*' Inquc virum foliti vultus mutare ferinos 

** Ambigui profedla lupi. Nee defuit illic 

** Squamca Cinypbii tenuis membrana Chelydri, 

" Vivacifqucjecur Cervi; quibus infuper addit 

" Ora caputquc novem Cornicis faecula paflie, &c*»** 

However, Ovid may be excufed for lb frequently taking occafion 
to difplay his learning, fince it was his exprefs defign to compofe a 
work which was at once to pfeafc and to inftruft by cxadl and 
minute defcriptions; yet Seneca's pedantry cannot be palliated; 
his bufinefs was to animate and delight the fpciSlators. The dra- 
ma is not a place for hiflorical details^ and geographical de*- 

But we will now return to the confidant, who continuing to 
take Ovid for a guide, reprefents Medea as extrading the blood 
and poifon of thefe ferpents; but this is painted in a manner fo 
fhocking, that it raifes more horror than delight. " I hear her, 
«• addsfhej herfongshavc already made the whole univerfe tremble/' 

Accordingly Medea comes upon the ftage to finifh her incanta- 
tions. It is not fo much amagick charm as an infernal howling; 
for fo I call that long feries offwelling verfes, which Medea rather 
howls out than fpeaks : fhe is the fybil of the Pharfalia, or 
fomething ftill more horrid, if it be poffible. 

** Voi conmie CCS ferpens a mon commandement 
<* D'Afriquc jufqu'ici n'ont tarde qu'un moment^ 
*' Et contraints d'ob^r ^ mes clameurs funeftes- 
•* Ont fur ce don fatal vomi toutcs leurs peftes, 
*f L'amour a tous mcs {tns ne fut jamais fi doux;, 
" Que ce trifte appareil k mon elprit jaloux. 
*< Ccs herbes nc font pas d'une vertu commune: 
*' Moi-m£me en les cueillant je fis p^ la lune, 
** Quand les cheveux idottans, le bras^ & le pied nu. 
'* J'en d^pouillai jadis un climat inconnu/' 

Corneille has ipared us at leaft the geographical defcription of 
feveral countries. 

• Ovid. Met 1. 7. 

^* Voi 

jvr ET* rr e- a. 437 

** Vol miile autres vcnins. Cette liqueur ^paifle 

«* Mele du fang dc THydre avec cclui de Ncfle. 

** Python cut cette langue, & cc plumage noir 

'• Eft celui qu'une Harpyc en fuyant laiffa choir. 

** Par ce tifon Althee aflbuvit fa colere 

" Trop pitoyable foeur, & trop cruelle mere. 

** Ce feu tomba du ciel avecque Phaeton ; 

** Cet autre vient des flots du pierreux Phlegeton. 

" Et celui-ci jadis remplit e^ nos con trees 

" Des Taureaux de Vulcaiin les gorges enfoufFrecs. 

** Enfin tu ne vois-la, poudres, racines, eaux, 

*• Dont le pouvoir mortel n ouvrit mille tombeaux. 

" Ce prefent deceptif a bu toute leur force, 

'* Etbienmieux quemon bras vengera mon divorce/' 

It requires a pencil as delicate and as judicious as that of Virgil 
to paint things fo horrid in themfelves. Here follows an example 
of this fort of defcriptions, which is not foreign to the fubjed of 
the Medea. The poet is Ipeaking of Circe, another enchantrcfs, 

<* Elle invoque a grands cris tous les Dieux du T^nare, 

" Les Parques, Nemefis> ,Cerbere» Phlegeton • 

" Et rinflexible Hecate, & Tinfame Aledon. 

** Sur un autel fanglant TafFreux bucher s'allume j 

<« La foudre devorante auffi-t6t le confume. 

" Mille noires vapeurs obfcurcifTent le jour : 

<* Les aftres de la nuit interrompent leur courfes ; 

** Les fleuves etonnes remontent vers leur fource, 

'* Et Pluton meme tremble en fon obfcur fejour. 

'* Sa voix redoutable 

** Trouble les enfers : . 

** Un bruit formidable 

'* Gronde dans les airs: 

** Un voile efFroyable 

** Couvre I'univers : 

*' La terre tremblante 

** Fremit de terreur : 

'* L'onde turbulente, 

" Mugif de fureur 5 

** La Tune fanglante 

** Rccule d'horreur. 

^' Dans 

438 MEDEA. 

•« Dans Ic fcin dc la mort fes noircs enchaatcmens 
** Vont troubler Ic rcpos dcs ombres. 
" Lcs manes efFrayes quittent Icurs monumens ; 
" L'air rctcntit au loin de Icurs cavernes fombres 
" Mclcnt a leurs clameurs d*horribles fifHemens. 
" Inutilcs efforts ! &c." 

Seneca has (hewn far lefs judgment in his Medea, Virgil has 
defcribed the fatal prefages of Dido's death; prefages which have 
all the dreadful folemnities of Medea's enchantments ; but they 
move the heart without difgufting it. His inriagcs have a certain 
majeftic horror in them very different from the wild fallies of S,e- 
neca and Corneille. But Corncille, although the greateft poet of 
our times, has fuffered himfelf to be impofed upon, by the veocra- 
tion in which this tragedy of Seneca was held ; and indeed it is the 
fineft of thofe that are attributed to this author. 

But to return to Medea : (h^ gives the robe and the coronet to 

her Ions, and commands them to prefent the(e gifts to Creufa.^ 

but all this is neither connedled nor well prepared- The Chorufi 

,fpeak lefs, and with more propriety, of Medea's rage than in the 

former interlude. 

A C T V. 

An officer comesto acquaint them that the inchanted prefetits 
have confumed the king and princefs ; and likewife, that the whole 
palace is inflames , fo that a general conflagration of the whole 
city is apprehended. The Chorus anfwer, that they muft extin- 
guifh the flames wkh water ; but the officer tells them, that water 
ferves as food only for this extraordinary fire. 

Chorus. *' Unda flammas opprimat, 
NuNT. " Alitunda flammas, &c." 

A puerility which I have taken notitc of, to fliew, that thofe wri- 
ters who have their heads above the clouds, fometimes fall to the 
ground in a moft deplorable manner. In the following fcerie there 
is fomc very beautiful pafTages : Meflea, intlead of making her 
efcape, declares, that although fhc had already left Corinth, fhe 
would return again to enjoy her vengeance. The punifhment of 
Crcon and his daughter holds the place of a happy marriage tar 
her. Nuptiasjpfffo novas. 

3 She 

M E D E A, 439 

She animates lierfelf to compleat thefe horrors by the murder 
of her children, to which all that fhe had yet done was only the 

" Prolufit dolor 
" Per ifta nofter/* 

But flie dare not avow yet to hcrfclf the horrid deed flie is me- 

*• Nefcio quid ferox 
**I>fecrevit aniriius intus, & nondum fibi 
" Audet fateri." 

She feels the ftruggles between nature and revenge. 

*• Immolons avec joye 
" Ceuxqua^mc dire adieu .Creiife me renvoyc 
*' Us viennent de fa' part, ils ne font plus amoi: 
" Mais, lis font innocens ! auffi 1 ctoit mon frere. 
•* lis font.trop criminels d^avoir Jafon ppur pcreJ* 

Scelus ejf Jafon genittr^& m(^usfcelus 
Medea mater. Occidant, mnfunt met. 
Fereant^ met funt-^'Crimine (S culpd carent. 
Sunt innoeentesrfaUory tS fraterjuit. 

But after all thefe beautiful Tentiments, there follow fbme, ex- 
travagant ia thehigbeft degree,- ** Why, cries (he, have I not as 
•* many .childrenras Niobe? I have two few to fatisfy my ven- 
••^ geance." Sterilisin pceriis fui. *« but at leaft I have enough to 
" appeafe the ir^ured (hades of a father^^ and a brother/* She fan- 
cies ibe beholds the Furies and the ghoft of Abfyrtus. " Leave 
•* to me, fays (he, the care of revenging thee; this hand, this 
" poniard will do it withoufthy aid-" At length (lie hears the 
tumult of arms; (he afcends a balcony, and refolves to ma(racre 
her children publickly : (hould (he do it in fecret, (he would lofc 
her .dear*- bought revenge. She would (hew the people what Men 
dea is capable of. 

*' Ndn in occulta tibi eft' 
** Pexclenda ^virtus* Approba populo manum/" 

This is a diredt ofFeiice againft that precept, of Horace,- which 
forbids Medea to murder her children upon the ftage. 

** Ne pueros coranr popu'o Medea trucidet/'. 


44ft M B D B A« 

Jafon enters, eager to revenge the deaths of his bride and hcf 
father, and Medea without feeing him, utters thefe words : 

" I have recovered my fceptcr, my father, my brother, mv ho* 
*' nour, and the fatal fleece. Oh favourable Deities! Oh happy 
•' day! Oh glorious triumph! {here fke kiHs one if ber children) 
" My crimes are compleat, but not my vengeance." Again /he 
fortihes herfclf in her cruel rcfolutions; but in an inftant ihe 
repents of the horrid deed, then rejoices in it, and her joy increafes 
at the fight of Jafon. " There wanted only this, fays fhe, to my 
" revenge, that he (hould be a ipodtator of it." 

*• Deerat hoc unum mihi 
** Spedlator ipfe.* Nil adhuc fadum reor. 
** Qmcquid fine ipfo fecimus iceleris perit.'' 

*< Hitherto all I have done is nothing. Alas! that crime which 
•* I have this moment fpared him the fight of, is loft to me." 

This is a refinement of rage fo extraordinary, that no judgment 
can be made of it; and which Corneille 'durft n&t imitate. But 
Seneca carries it farther ftill. Medea fliews her hufband one of 
her fons, already murdered ; and the other ready to receive the 
ftroke fhe prepares to give him. The poniard is lifted up, Jafon 
conjures her to fpare his only child, and to ftrike him. Medea 
excites this paternal tendernefi ftill more, that fhe may enjoy the 
barbarous pleafurc of tormenting him. ^* I would wound ^hee, 
** fays ftie to him, in themoft fenfible part.*' •' Aminot fufficiently 
" puniflied by the death of one fon" ? replies Jafon. "No, re- 
*• fumes Medea J if I could have been fatisfied with the facrificc 
" of one,! would have fpared them both. Two fons are too few 
** for my revenge. I would with this fteel fearch my bowels for 
** another." 

*^Tn matrc fi quod pignus etiamnum latet, 
' •• Scrutabor enfe vifcera, & ferro extraham."^ 

What fentiments ! we tremble while we admire them. Jafon 
implores her to fufpend, at leaft, her barbarity for a few moments : 
ftie confents to it 5 but it is only to prolong a father's agonies. 
«* Enjoy, fays flie, enjoy Medea, thy protradted revenge ; haften 
«* not thy impious deed ; the whole day is before thee, fill up 
«' every moment with horror.** 

** Perfruere lento fcelere ; ne propera, dolor: 

'' Meus dies eft; tempore accepto utimur. 

MEDEA. 441 

** Inhuman wretch, cries Jafon, murder me. ^Tis well, fays 
^* Medea, thou imploreft mercy : this is the mercy I give thee, 
** {Jke fiabs'her other fon.^ Oh vengeance, I have no more facri- 
*' nccs to make thee ! look up, perfidious Jafon, and by thcfe 
"** tokens know thy wife." Here (he flies away upon her inchanted 
•chariot, and Jafon concludes the piece with fome lines, the moft 
inotpious that ever were written. " Go, fly through the vaft regi- 
^* ons of the air, and convince mankind that there are no Deities 
•* above." 

«* Teftare nullos effe qua veheriB Deo^/' 

A divine thought, fays a certain critic; when aflliredly nothing 
can be lefs fo. Such is this piece, which is one of the mofl beauti«- 
ful of the few Latin tragedies we liave remaining. It is gcnc^ 
rally allowed to be the true Seneca's; that is Xr. Seneca, thephiIo« 
(bpher; or his at leaft who was called the tragic poet.. Some cri<- 
tics prefer this to the *Medea of Euripides ; but it is doing it 
;great honour^ even to compare it With the Greek tragedy. 

Vol. n. LH MEDEA. 



WE have already given an account, in part, ofthis tragedy, iit 
the foregoing analyfis of Seneca's Medea. All that remains: 
now is, to examine Corneille's plan, that we may fee how far hci 
has followed Euripides and Seneca, and in what he differs from- 

A e T L 

It is Pollux who opens the fcene. This Argonaut i$ fuppofed 
to have been abfent from Greece ever fince the conquefl of the 
Golden Fleece, and to be ignorant of all that pafled there. Cor- 
neille acknowledges that Pollux is a perfonage introduced merely 
fto hear the fubjeft explained; accordingly he has fcarce any other 
bufinefs throughout the whole piece. Jafon relates all his adven- 
tures to him,, and acquaints him with his defign of repudiating Me- 
dea, to make way for his marriage with the princefs of Gorinth* 
This whole narration is copied fr<5m Euripides; to which is added,. 
that judicious ftrokc of Seneca's, which renders Jafon in foxne de- 
gree juftifiable for q^uitting Medea, fince he was reduced to the n«- 
ceffity of being either unfaithful to her, or of expofing his children 
to the vengeance of two powerful ftates, lolcos, andColchos; the 
former irritated by the kxfs of the Golden Fleece, the latter by the 
murder of Pelius. 

Jafon, eager to fee his beloved Creufa again, quits Pollux ab^^upi- 
ly enough;, becaufe, indeed, they have nothing more to fay to 
each other, and no farther information to give the audience; and 
as it is neceffary to create a favourable prejudice for Creufa, flie is 
flicwn for a few moments upon die ftage, and then difappears at 
the fight of Medea:. Here the tragedy properly begins. I have 


MEDEA. 443 

already quoted part of the fcene, which is the fame with the firft 
fcene of Seneca. Medea, firft in afoliloquy, and afterwards in a 
converfation with her confidant Nerina, takes a refolution to mur- 
kier Creon and Creufa. This whole aft therefore is but a copy of 
the firft a6t of Seneca. The only difference is, that which is here 
ipoken by fe\^eral aftors, is in the Latin tragedy expreffed in a finglc 
Soliloquy of Medea's. 


Medea, in her-fecond entrance, fefems determined to fpare Jafon. 
Creon infifts upon her quitting his dominions immediately; but at 
her intreaty grants her a day's delay. All this is copied from Se- 
jieca: but the epifode of Egeus, which ^e fhall come to prefently, 
is entirely of Corneillc's invention. 

This poet, in his obfervations upon the Medea, condemns Euri- 
pides for introducing Egeus, only to extricate Medea out of her dif- 
ficulties; and he is in the right. The fcene between Egeus and Me* 
d^a is very fhort ; but the two faults which Corncille exclaims againft 
moft in the Greek poet, feem nol to be clearly proved. The firft 
is, that Egeus, although in the court of Creon, makes no mention of 
having feen him ; but the truth is, he fpeaks equivocally, and fays 
enough to make it be iuppofed that he faw the king of Corinth 
immediately upon his arrival; ahd that, being a ftranger, he after- 
Wards came to vifit Medea, who he heard was at Corinth, but was 
ignorant of her late misfortunes. This is evident, from a pafTagc 
which Corneille fcems not to have attended to fufBciently. Egeus 
afTures Medea, that flie fhall be kindly received at Athens; but he 
adds, that it will not be proper for him to condutft her thither him- 
fclf, for fear of giving umbrage to his hoft. By the word hoft, he 
certainly means Creon: therefore we find that Egeus has feen 
him ; there needs no more to put that paft a doubt. 

The fecond error, which Corneille charges upon Euripides, is a 
mere fubtilty. ** The king of xA^thens, fays he, promifes Medea to 
**' receive and proteiS: her at Athene ; neverthelefs, he tells her,' 
** that when he leaves Corinth, he will go to TraJzen, to confult 
^* Pitheus, concerning the meaning of an oracle which had been de^ 
** him at Delphos. Medea therefore muft necefTarily be 
** but in a bad fituation at Athens while fhe waited his return, fincc 
" it was plain that he continued a long time with Pittheus, whofe 
" daughter, iEthra, he fell in love with, and left her big with . 
*^ child/' . ' 

LII2 To 

444 M B D fi A. 

To this I anfwcrrthat Egcus's rcfolution to go to Trsezen, m? 
order to be informed of the meanine of the oracle, was antecedent 
to the proaxife he made Medea. This princefs herfclf approved of 
his taking this journey, and is fatisfied with obtaining an afylum ia 
the dominions of Egeus, without requiring his prefence there. 
Now, an abfence which was likeW to be fo (hort^ confidcring the 
dclign of it, could not expofe Niedea to any danger at Athens. 
That Egeus remained a confiderable time at Troezcn'is true, fince,. 
without knowing it, he accompKlhed there the oracle of Delphos ; 
which forbad htm^^in terms very obfcure, and very indecent for an ora- 
cle, the commerce which, gave place to the birth of Thefeus. Bu5 
this fhould not be charged upon Euripides as a fault :. he makes 
ufe of Egeus fuch as he finds him in the prefent moment} that is^ 
fully determined to return as foon as poffible to Athens :. and ex*- 
tremely delighted with the hope Medea had given him, of accom- 
pli(hing the deiire that had carried him to Delphos. This was. 
lufficient for Euripides, without troubling himfelf to conlider whe- 
ther or not Egeus returned at the appointed time to Athens^ for. at 
any rate he was not long abfent. This fault, if it be one, is fo in« 
confiderable, that it is not worth mentioning; and Corneille criti*. 
cifed it only to raife the merit of his own epifode of Egeus, which he 
has not been more happji in the management of than Euripides.. 
On the contrary, he (hews this old prince in a very ridiculoutr 
light, by making him the rival of Jafon, and the lovjer of Creufa*. 
He is afterwards imprifoned, (which is another flrange circum- 
fiance) on purpofe to give Medea an opportunity of delivering him. 
from liis fetters; that by conferring this obligation on him, he may 
fecure to her a fafe retreat at Athens, and afterwards marry her. 
However,, to fpeak juftly, this whole epifode is .of no other ufe but 
tofwell the a£t$; its eflcifl therefore, is.tomiake the principal adion. 
languifli, by taking the place of thofe fcenes which are really in- 
tereAing. But Seneca's tragedy was too fhort; it muA be lengthen- 
ed; and Egeus is here what the Infanta is in the Cid ; a ufelefs. 
chara6:er, introduced only, to fill up a.fcene or two. It does not' 
belong to me to. ccnfure Corneille; the faults of a great genius- 
ought to be treated with refpefl:. I only condcitin thatembarrai^- 
fing neceflity which, dramatic writers impofe upon themfelves, of^ 
introducing epifbdes into their tragedies. They would compofe 
five zQSy which may take up two or three hours in the reprefeo- 
tatiom They think they have not matter fufficient for this pur-* 
pofe. They furiii(b themfelves with an epifode,, foreign perhaps to 



M ET D' E A. 445 

ti!c ful^^et^l ; and this they connedb with it as well as they can. It 
muft be confcfled that their gold is fpoilcd by this alloy; but fay 
they, it is a ncceflary evil. How then, I alk, decs it happen, that 
the .Greeks have been able to avoid it ? 

Let us return to Egeus; He is fuppofed to be in love with 
Creufa ; but the princefs has her fathers confent to give this fuper- 
annuatcd' lover a- denial. 'Creufe does this with great civility, as 
fhe fays i but in efFciSl, it is with fcorn= enough: fo that Egeus,. who* 
diicoyers he is laughed at, forms a fcheme to carry off Creufa. 


Thetwofirftfcenes of the third a<9:, namely, that of Nerina alone^ 
and that of Jafon with her^ gives us but little information ; and 
the whole bufinefs of them is to bring about an interview between 
Jafon and Medea : this interview is copied from Seneca^ and is^ 
extremely beautiful in- the French, as, well as the Latin poet; but 
both have fallen into a very condderable fault. Medea, in this 
fcene, (uddenly paffes, from th€ moft violent rage and bittereft re- 
proaches imaginable, to a. feigned tendernefs, of which Jafoiii is the 
dupe. If Jafon appears too credulous m Euripides, wheri^ how- 
ever this ftratagem of Medea ia more artfully prepared by a fccond- 
conference with her hufband, how weak does he ihew himfelf here^ 
when the tranfitition from fury to kindneis is fo fudden? Belides 
Jafon having no longer any tendernefs for Medea.cannot iky in his* 
own excufe. 

" L'on eft aif^ment dupe par ce qu-bn aimte, 

" Et Tamour propre engage a fe tromper foi-m^inc*/^ 

The following fcene, with which the adf concludes, is a conver- 
sation between Medea and' her confidant, occafioncd By a very 
childifli inclination in Creufa. Corneille was not willing to make 
Medea form, the defign herfelf, of fendingprefents to the new bride, 
as an acknowledgment for her having obtained a pardon for Jafon $ 
children, but fuppofes that Creufa paffionatelf defires to be poflef- 
fed of Mtdea's robe; (a defirc very natural to a young woman) 
and that (he intreats Jafon to procure it for her, at any rate. This: 
ftroke is furely unworthy of the great Corneille, and yet it is upon 
this that great part of the cataftrophe turns. Virgil har alfo failed' 
in this, by the ridiculous equivocation of the tables which the Tro- 
•ans were to eatj according to the oracle delivered them by an 

^Moliere llmpoft. Aft IV. Sc. 3. 


446 MEDEA. 

Harpye- This filly fondncfs of Creufa for Medea's robc# and 
her lover's eagernefs to gratify it, fills up in this a£t, as well as the 
former, two or three fcenes which are beneath the dignity of 

A C T IV. 

Medea feizes this opportunity to be revenged on her rival ; and 
this gives room for that magical fcene which I have mentioned be-- 
fore. As this fcene, which makes up the whole fourth ad: of the 
Latin tragedy, was too (hort to fill the fame aft of the French one^ 
Corneillc here makes the cfFed: of Egeus's menaces break out, and 
Medea is informed that this prince had made an attempt to carry 
off Creufa. Nerina is going on with an account of the manner in 
which the princefs wasfaved; hut Medea interupts her by this line 
fo judicioully placed ; 

'* Je devine la fin ; men traitre la fauvee." 

She guefled right, for Jafon had flown to the affiftance of his mi- 
ftrefs with Pollux, and had forced her out of the hands of Egeus, 
who had now made himfelf a party in the quarrel. Corneille 
obferves, that Medea's ingenious interruption is indeed a ftroke 
of nature. Medea's mind was too much agitated to be capa^ 
ble of liftening to a ufelefs detail of circunn&ances: {he orders 
Nerina to fend the poifoncd robe inftantly to Creufa by the young 
princes, the fons of jafon. 

The fecond fcene is made up of compliments between Creon and 
Pollux, to fliew thatthe latter has not been wholly inadive, fincehc 
has been engaged in a combat for the princefs of Corinth. He 
even endeavours, in the following fcene, to infufe fome juft fufpici- 
ons into the mind of Creon, on occafion of Medea s prefent. 

** Jeus toujours pour fufpefts les dons des cnnemis;** 
Says he, after Virgil. 

^* Timeo Danaos & dona ferentes." 

Creon is with difficulty perfuaded to believe that there may be 
danger in thefe gifts, which is furprifing when he difcovered ter- 
ror at the fight only of Medea. 

«' Gardes, emp^chez-la de s'approcher de moi.** 

I / How- 

U El- O^ E A. 447 

However, he confcn'ts to make trial of tlie robe upon a woman 
condemned ta death ; aufelefs caution. Medea had provided againft 
fach a one.-, the poifon, (as if it had the power of diftinguiffiing) 
was made only to deftroy- Creon and Creufa, and tofpare all others. 

After thefe two fcenes we are (hewn Egeus in prifon, who 
pronounces fome ftanzas much- lefs interefting than thofe of Po- 
lieuda, or of Rodrigui. Gorneille, in vain, indeaVours to defend 
' this change of place, which is fo frequent in his Me Jta. TKe fup-^ 
pofed public fquare where Euripidee and Seneca- have laid their 
fcene appears abfurd to him*, but is this fhifting of place lefs (hock- 
ing? certainly the fpe<Stator finds lefs difficulty in forgetting that the 
place where the fcene is laid, and where he is fixed, is too much 
cxpofed to public view, than to make fo many goings and comings, 
to follow the adlors without changing place himfelf. 

Medea afterwards enters, and with her wand caufes the doors 
of Egeus's prifon to fly open, and his fetters to fall off. The king 
of Athens, after having offered his hand and throne to his deliverer,, 
makes his efcape from Corinth. 

A C T V^ 

An officer comes out of the palace to carry Jafon an account of 
the fatal effed of the robe, Medea, with a flroke of her wand,, 
fixes hin> to the ground ; and after hearing from him the occafion 
of his being fent to Jafon, with another (troke of her wand rcftores 
him to the ufe of his limbs again. Here is a great deal of magic 
employed. Surely Euripides has (hewn more judgment in the fpa- 
ring ufe he has made of Medea s ikill in inchantment. 

This princefs afterwards works herfelf up to a rcfolution of kill- 
ing her children, and retires. The void of this ad: is then filled 
up by Creon and Creufa, who appear upon the flage devoured 
with a fire invifible indeed, but infupportable. Their condition* 
raifes more horror than compafilion. Creon at length ftabs him- 
felf with a poniard, to leave the ftage frte for Jafon. The poet 
has here fhewn his judgment in getting rid of Creon ; for he per- 
ceived that a very tragical fituation rfiuft pecelTarily languifh when 
there are more than two fpeakers. It was for this reafon alfo that 
he contrives to have Jafon out of the way for fome time j who, in 
civility to Pollux, attends him out of the gates of Corinth, becaufe 
there was no longer any bufinefs for him^ 

Jafon at length returns; and this fcene becomes ftriking on ac- 
count of the fituation in which he now finds himfelf, between a* 


448 M B D E A: 

dead firther, and a dying wifc» whofe torments he is not able to te^ 
lieve. Their farewell is very afie&tng; but when Creufa is 
dead, the rage that feizes Jafon is quite out of nature. Not 
fatisfied with dooming Medea to the fevereft puni(hment, he 
utters a long and furious invedive, ^he was not now to de« 
claim, but to z&) and deliberates whether he. ought not to facri- 
fice his own children^ becaufe they were the bearers of the fatal pre- 
fent, and becaufe they owed their birth to Medea. Such a fally of 
barbarous fury ought to have been referved for Medea alone, as 
Euripides and Seneca have done. It is not natural for a father to be 
{6 far tranfported with rage, as to murder his own children to be 
revenged ona wife. It is true, indeed, that Jafon only deliberates 
whether he Aall commit this deed^ and it is in the excefs of his 
grief and defpair that it prefents itfelf to his imaginaiion: but this 
thought in a prince, for whom the poet would excite compaffion, 
raifes horror and indignation. When he oomes <o the palace and 
fees Medea Aipon the halcany, and afterwards feated in her flying 
chariot, he loads her with invedtives and execrations. She has 
killed her children, and congratulates berfelf upon having been be- 
forehand with Jafon; but to this Jafon makes no anfwer: he 
feems to have forgot he is a father, and only remembers that he is 
a lover j therefore he takes no notice of the murder of his fons. 
All his thoughts are employed upon Creufa ; • and finding it impof^ 
fible to revenge her death ispon Medea, he revenges it upon him- 
felf, and falls upon his fword. 

I am very fenfible that the Medeia is not the bed performance df 
P. Corneille : He himfelf perceived that the flyle was unequal ; and 
he even obferves, that after the writing this tragedy, he acquired an 
enthufiafm little inferior to the writers he imitated; as in his 
Pompey, for example. This is true, and pofterlty will never deny 
him this juftlce. It is only to be wifhed that he h^d not carried 
his veneration for Seoeca and Lucan fo far as to efpoufe even their 
faults. But after all, this too clofe imitation cannot lelTen the fame 
of fo great a genius, who always improved upon his models. And 
-if I have examined his tragedy, together with thofe of the Greek 
{)oets, it is becaufe his may be properly <:ompared with them on ac- 
count of its fubjecfk ; but in general, the great Corneille may fap- 
port a comparifon carried much farther, to* the advantage both of 

^ur^ge.and his own. 



M E D E A 



OF this tragedy I fliall fay very little, becaufe it is altnoft the 
fame with the Medea of Euripides. It is exadly fuch a 
tranflation ais the Iphigenia, which has been already mentioned. 
Dolce his added nothing to his original, but fome few inconfidera* 
ble embellishments to lengthen the a£b* He has even fporled one 
paiTage inftead of improving k. It is in the firft ad, where the 
Greek poet foppofes Medea to be behind the fcene. But the Italian 
conceiving this to be a fault, has thought proper to introduce her 
upon the flage, and thus loies a beautiful fufpeniion which raifes 
the furprife of the fpedator, for a cold declamatory fpeech. He 
has alfo made Medea's little children fpeak upon the ftage, as he 
makes the ypung Oreftes in Iphigenia ; a thing never pradtifcd by 
the ancients. They only introduced them to r^fe companion by 
the fight of their helplefs innocence ^ but their little prattle feemed 
below the dignity of tragedy. In Euripides, Medea's children 
fpeak a few words behind the ftage when their mother is purfuing 
them with her poniard. However, we find in Dolce, as well as in 
fome other Italian poets who have imitated the Greeks, the pathos, 
and even the fimplicity of the ancients, without any conceits, 
without the antithesis, and injudicious ornament whkh in general 
they ^ffe(ft. It wou'd have been well alfo, if, inftead of following 
fo clofely the plan of the Greek drama, they had ventured to give 
Italy an example of daring genius, which our poets have given 
France, by departing a little from tlie manner of the Greeks, while 
they were ftill governed by the juftnefs of their tafte. 

Vol. IL M m m " Vefti- 

450 MEDEA. 

** Vcffigia Graeca 
" Aufi dcfcrcrc." Horat Art. PocL 

I have like wife read two other tragedies of Dolce's, one entituled 
Progne, the other Thycfte. They are written in the fame manner^ 
that is, they are formed upon the plan, and in the fpirit of the 
Greek poets ; but without attaining their fupreme beauty. The 
Thyefte is a tranflation from Seneca. Dolce has failed in his at- 
tempt to render that beautiful thought which makes fo admirable 
a difcovery in the Latin poet Atrcus, after that fead which mad& 
the fun ftart back with horror, prefents a cup to Thyeftes, Thy- 
cftcs defires to fee his children; and his brother (hewing him the: 
remains of thofe wretched vi(Sims, fpeaks thefe horrible words« 

Atreus. " Venere; gnatos ecquid agnofcis tuos?" 

To which Thyefte anfwers, 

^^ Agnofco fratrem/' 

Which one of our poets has very happily tranflated iir thig. 
manner : Atree dc M. Crebilloiu 

Atre*e. " Reconnois-tu ce fang, 
Thyest. '* Jc reconnois moo frere/* 

Dolce did not perceive the fpirit and fublimity of this thought^ 
when he imagined he expreffed it by this tranflation. 
Atre*e. ** Conofci qucfte tcfte e queflje mani ? 

*• Quefti fon tuoi figlivoli: hora gli abbraccia» 

*« Che quefto e Filiften : quefti fon gli altri*. 
Thyest. ** Qime, come confcnti 

" Terra crudel, di foftcner ancora 

" Tantafceleritadc? 6cc." 

This Lodovico Dolce has written a^ great many other tragediet^ 
which are all formed upon the plans of the Greek or Latin poets^; 
or rather, the greateft part of them are tranflations. He is one of 
the firfl genius's of the Italian drama. 

Thefe two tragedies are entirely tranflated. See the firft part of 
this work.. 




ANdromache cannot be named without calling to mind one of 
the mafter- pieces of the French theatre. But not to dwell here 
upon a parallel between Euripides and Racine, as in Iphigenia and 
Phedra, we need only confider what Racine himfelf has faid in his 
preface upon the fubjei^of the Andromache of Euripides. 

" Although the title of my tragedy is the fame with that of Eu* 
" ripides, yet the fubjedl is very different. In Euripides, Andro- 
" mache*s diftrefs arifes from the danger of Moloffus, a fon (he had 
** by Pyrrhus, whofe life Hermione fought to take away, together 
^^ with that of his mother: but here Moloffus is out of the queftion. 
" Andromache is ftill the widow of Hedtor, and has no fon but 
" Aftyanax. It appeared to me, that, by modelling my fubjed in 
** this manner, I afted conformably to the idea we have now of 
" this princefs. Almoft all thofe who have heard of Andromache, 
** know her only as the widow of Hedtor, and the mother of Afty- 
" anax. It would be difficult for them to believe that (he could 
" love any other huiband, or any other fon; and I greatly doubt 
** whether the tears of Andromache would have made fo powerful 
•* an impreffioa upon the audience, if they had flowed for any other 
" fon than for him fhe had by Hedtor." 

Such are the refledtions which the delicate tafte and exadt judg- 
ment of Racine fuggefted to him. The cuftoms of antiquity are 
too remote from our times, and too different from our manners, to 
raife compaffion in an audience, who are more affedted with the 
misfortunes of a wife faithful to the aflies of her firft hufband, than 
to the diftrefs of a captive princefs, who has been conftrained to 
partake the bed of the conqueror, rather as a flave than a wife. 

M m m 2 This 


This to the Greeks was an afFeding diftrcfs, who had examples of 
the like before their eyec ; but to us who haw not, Aich a Stu^titm 
would appear (hocking. Thus the French Andromache, without 
taking in other reafons, will always, from the noble motive of her 
grief, be preferred to the fimpHcity of the Greek Andromache. I 
fliall not fcruple to prefent her to my readers fuch as (he appeared 
upon the Athenian ftage; but without entering into any compari- 
fon with her who has drawn tears from all France, fince there is 
fcarce any other refcmblance between the two Andromaches, than 
what there is between two very different paintings of mu unhappy 
mother, who unwillingly became the rival of Hermione* 

Thefe two princeflcs are the principal perfons in the Greek 
drama. Molo/Tus is an infant, only introduced to heighten the 
compaflion of the audience. Menclaus, Pcleus, Oreftcs, are fub- 
ordinate chara<5tcrs; as are a fervant, a confidant, and an officer. 
Thetis is introduced at laft to unravel the intrigue ; and the Chorus 
of Grecian Women to carry it on. The fccne is in Phthia, a city 
in the territories of Neoptolcmus, the fon of Achilles. 

A C T I. 

It is Andromache herfclf who opens the fcehe. She is di(^ 
covered at the foot of an akar dedicated to Thetis, near the palace 
of Pyrrhus. From this afylum, into which fee had thrown herfclf 
to ayoid death, (he recounts the hiftory of her misforttmes. She 
tells how (he had beheld the ruin of Troy. Her Hedor dragged 
along the plain by the horfes of Achilles; and her fdn Aftyaryax 
thrown from the top of a tower. That being fallen by lot to Pyr- 
iJius, £he had been conftrained to become the wife of hini who had 
dcftroyed Ilion; that (he had a fon by him, her beloved Moloflus> 
who now held the place of her loft Aftyanax j but that the jealous. 
Hermionc, by efpoufing the fame Pyrrhus, had declared herfelf 
the irreconcilable enemy of her and her fon. Pyrrhus is fuppofed 
to bc^abfent from Phthia-, and Hermione, fupported by her father 
Menelaus, takes advantage of his abfence to condemn her rival,, 
and Moloffus, who is the principal objeft of her rage, to death. 

The Lacedemonian princefs, who has no children, conceives ai 
mortal hatred to the fon of the foreigner, and to the widow of 
Heftor: (he accufes her of b«ing, by the ufe of magical arts, the 
caufe of that indifference Pyrrhus expreffes for her. Andromache,, 
who had fccreted Moloffus from the attempts of his enemies, and 
taken fanftuary herfelf in the Temple of Thetis, there waits for 

X her 


tier fWftt» who bitd doomed her to dedrudtion, Such is the fitua- 
ItfHi of this unhappy princer$, as explained by the prologue. 

One of her womeo approaches wkh great caution, and (hews the 
extreme diftrefs to which Andromache is reduced ; fince it is only 
by an effedl of this woman's extraordinary fidelity that ftie dare» 
venture to fpeak to her miftrefs, and give her fccret notice of the 
new calamities which Menelaus and Hermione were preparing for 

Andromache, calling her no longer her flave> but her companion, 
afks her eagerly what fatal news (he is come to declare to her. 
•* They have-refolved, fays the attendant, to murder thy fon. Oh 
** heavens 1 refumes the princefs, my child is difcovered, I am un- 
** doneT' It is but too true; and Menelaus comes out of the pa* 
lace to feek his vidlim himfelf. 

Andromache, thus left defencclefs by the abience of Pyrrhus, 
who is gone to Dclphos; and of Pcleus, who is in his dominions 
of Pharfalia, refolves to fend to the latter, who is at lefs dJ- 
ftance than Pyrrhus, to intreat him to come with all fpeed to 
Phthia, to prevent thefe barbarous defigns. The flave, with fome 
difficulty, undertakes to execute this dangerous commiflion, which, 
if difcovered, will coft her her life; but her miftrefs endeavours to 
remove her fears, by iaying to her, " The natural fubtilty of thy 
" fex wiH furni(h thee with the means of giving fuch a colour to 
♦* thy departure as will'deceivc Hcrmione." This is a malignant 
ftroke againft women; there are many more of the fame kind 
throughout this piece* Euripides took care to let none efcape him. 
Andromache, left alone, continues to bewail her misfortunes : (he 
compares her prefent mifery with her former happinefs : fhe even 
changes her ftyle, and affume^ the elegiac ftrain, which anfwers to 
our tragick ftanzas; but with more propriety, fince elegy took its 
rife from fighs and tears, which it expreflcs more happily than our 
ftanzas; and therefore Andromache's complaints cannot be rendered 
with all their elegance in the French language. ** Ah miferablc 
" Paris, cries (he, it was a fury, and not a bride thou broughteft 
** with thee to Troy. She it was that delivered thee, my unfortu- 
nate country, a prey to flames, and to the fwords of the aveng- 
** ing Greeks. She it was who murdered my beloved Hcdtor,, 
** my He<aor, whofe bleeding corps was barbaroufly dragged along 
^ the field. She was the caufe, that veiled like a captive, I was 
^ brought to thefe foreign (hores. Ah ! how many tears did this 
^^ fad feparation from the afhes of Pergamus and my Hedor' s tomb* 

. "colt 



'' coft tliefe unSiappy eyes ? and tnuft I fttll Uwt to be the flave oF 
^' Hermione ? an inhuman rival, who forces me by her cruelty to 
^* take refuge at this altar, and to conAime away in grief/' Thus 
^eaks Andromache in Racine. 

^* J*ai vu mon pere mort 5c nos murs embrafiSs, 
" J'ai vu trancher Ics jours de ma famille cntiere, 
^^ Et mon epouxfanglant train6 fur la poufliere, 
'* Son fils feul avec moi feferve pour les fers. 
** Mais que nepeut un filsl je refpirc^ je fers*." 

At leaft k is from Euripides, that Racine has drawn that pathetic 
forrow of Andromache, who. like the Grecian Andromache, fo of- 
ten repeats the names of Troy and Hedtor; names which, to poeti- 
cal ears, have a kind of enchantment: and indeed the ideas of thefe 
fabulous times will always have new charms for the imagination* 
It is to mark this powerful effect of ancient ftory that Fontaine 

^< Hion, ton nom ieul a des charmes pour mou 

♦* Lieu fecond en fujets propres a notre emploi, 

^* Ne verrai-je jamais rien de toi, ni la place 

** De ces murs eleves & d^truits par les Dieux, 

** Ni ces champs ou couroient la Fureur 6c TAudace ; 

** Ni dcs temps fabuleux enfin la moindre trace 

" Qui pAt me prefenter Timage de ces lieuxl" Fable 245* 

Defpreaux, full of the fame enthufiafm^ exprefTes himfelf no 
Icfs ftrongly. 

" La fable offre i Tefprit mille agremens divers : 

*' La tous les noms heureux femblent nes pour les vers^ 

" Ulyffe, Agamemnon, Oreflte, Idomcn^e, 

•^ Hel^ne, Mcnclas, Paris, Hcdor^ Eii^e. 

" O le plaifant projet d^un Pocte ignorant, 

^* Qui de tant de ll6ros va choifir Childebrand ! 

Art. Poet. Chant. 3d. 

He is in the right, and it is certainly that fecret charm in the 
fabulous names of antiquity which animates the genius of the poet, 
and gives thofe glowing colours to his work which ftrikes fo power- 
fully the imagination of his audience. This is one of the great 
advantages which the Greek tragedies have over many of ours. 

^ Radne's Andromache. Aa UL Sc. 6. 



But to return to Andromache. A Chorus of Theffalian women, 
moved to compaflion by her deplorable ftate, come to fharc her 
grief. They are not in a condition to bring her any affiftance, and 
this fruitlefs tendernefs is more proper to heighten the tragic fitua- 
tion than to produce any change in it. All that thefe women can 
do is to pity the unhappy princels ; and indeed, fo far are they 
from undertaking to comfort her, that they declare plainly fhe has 
nothing to hope for, fince a Jiaughty and powerful rival has decreed 
her death. They therefore exhort her to call up all her courage 
and fortitude, and no longer Co protradl a miferable life in an aly- 
lum, which will foon ceafe to be any protedion to her; 

Hermione appears that .moment. Vain of her pomp and riches, 
which fhe owes, fhe fays, not to a hufband, but a fother, fhe thinksr 
ihe has 2t right to fpeak with haughtinefs and contempt to Andro- 
mache, whom fhe confiders as a flranger, and a captive. She re- 
proaches her with her wicked jealoufy^ " Which has induced thee, 
** fays tjermione, to make ufe of philtres to render me odious to 
" Pyrrhus. Such arts arc common to the women of Afia. But I 
" will be' revenged ; there is no altar, or temple, or Goddefs, that 
" fhall preferve thee from that death to which I have doomed thee. 
** But fhould it happen that any God or any mortal fhould deliver 
" thee from my hands,- yet fhall thy pride be mortified, and thou 
•* fhall be forced to kneel and confefs thylclf my flavc/* Her^ 
mjone goes farther yet: fhe tells her rival, that if fhe cfcapes death, 
fhe fhall be condemned to the humiliating drudgery of fweeping 
and watering the palace. Thefe are things which I can neither 
difguife nor tranflate. Hermione afterwards fpeaks with more dig- 
nity, but ftill in the language of rage and envy. She reminds An* 
dromachc that fhe is no longer in Troy, but in Greece, where it is 
fhameful tq fee a man married to two women; a barbarous cuflom, 
which fhe accufes her rival of having firfb introduced among the 
Greeks^ In Racine, the pride and iiercenefs of Hermione are ex- 
prefTed with more dignity ; andindeed fhe fpeaks more like a French 
princefs than an ancient heroine. 

Andromache is at firfV doubtful, whether fhe fhall anfwer to thefe 
invedtives at the hazard of expofing herfelf to flill worfe ufage; at 
length fhe gives way to a jufl indignation. ** What fupport have 
** I, fays fhe to Hermione, that fhould encourage me to interrupt the: 
" happinefs of your marriage ? Can Troy, now laid in afhes, give 
^ terror to Sparta; and am I not a captive here? Can I prefume 
^ upoatbat youth and beauty which I no longer poiTefs? or can L 



'< draw any pretenfions from the fplendor of my country, iiow 
^< ruined; or my illuftrious kindred, now coniigned to the tomb?'' 
In Racine's tragedy^ Cleane faking of Andromache, ufes the 
fame arguments. 

<< Penfez-vous que des yeuz toujours ouverts aux^armes 

^* Sc plaifent a troublcr le repos .de vos charmes ; 

^^ Et quun cceur accable de tant de deplaiiirs 

'* De fon perf(k:uteur aitbriguc Ics foupirs?" Ad. II. Sc. '!• 

Here are the fame thoughts, but ennobled by the expreflion. 
In Euripides, Hcdor's Widow continues thu^: " Shall I be folici- 
** tous for the fad privilege of bringing into the world flavcs for 
" Hcrmione; the wretched fruits of my captivity? If thou doft not 
" give fucceflbrs to the throne, thinkft thou my children will be 
<* fufFcrcd to reign ? Can the Greeks ever forget that there was 
** a Hcdlor, and that I was his wife ? If Pyrrhus repays thy paflion 
**♦ with indifference, thyfclf only is to blame for it. Thy pride is 
** the philtre of which thou complained. Ah princefs, it is virtue, 
** and not beauty, which fixes the heartof ahufbandi Thou art dif-» 
^' plcafcd with Pyrrhus upon the flighteft occafions, and then thou 
" boaftcftthcglory ofthyLacedemon, andcontemneftScyros. Thou 
" talkcft of thy fupcrior riches, and prcfereft Menelaus to Achilles. 
** Alas! this is not the way to charm thy huflbandj haughtinefe 
*^ fuits ill with a wife, although her huiband was even Uame- 
« able." 

Andromache afterwards aflcs her, whether, if it had been her fate 
to be married to a prince of Thrace, where the fovereigns (hare 
their beds with feveral wives, (he would have carried her rage and 
jcaloufy fo far as to form defigns upon their lives? She fays feveral 
things upon this fubjedl, which are neither fuitable to our manners, 
norconfiftcnt with the decency of our age; which requires, in words 
and in outward (hew, a more fcrupulous referve than the fcvere vir- 
tue of the ancients did in what was eflential. This is another proof 
of the impoffibility of tranflating entirely the ancient tragedies. An- 
^Iromache makes a merit of her kindne& to Hcftor's miftreffts; and 
(fince it muft be faid) of having fuckled children which he had by 
other women. It is not poffible to carry farther our complaifance 
for the manners of antiquity. She concludes with reproaching Hcr- 
mione with having had a mother outrageoufly jealous, and of follow* 
ing her example. *• Thou art fufpicious, iays £he, of the vtry ^ir 
^ which thy hufband breathes/' 



"The Chorus here perform their office of mediators; and endea- 
vour to prevail upon f^ermione to confider well the arguments An- 
dromache had urged in her own defence: but the haughty Laccr 
demonian princefs is offended with the, motion, and the converfa- 
lion degenerates into a clofe fliarp dialogue, which is managed with 
coarfenefs enough. At length Andromache declares that (be will 
hot quit her afylum; and Hermionc retires, after threatning cither to 
burn her in it, or to drag her thence by force. The Chorus conclude 
the aft with fome elegant complaints of the decifion of Paris, which 
was the folccaufe of the calamities of Andromache, of Troy, and of 


In this a£t, Menelaus unfolds the defign which Hermione had 
hinted at obfcurely. He brings in Moloflus, whofe retreat he had 
difcovered, and fticws him to his mother, to force her by this bafe 
artifice to leave her fanftuary. A vidtim he is refolved to have, and 
either the mother ar the fon muft die. Andromache, fupported by 
fome remains of haughtinefs derived from her pad grandeur, breaks 
into inveftives againft Menelaus, for thus abetting the barbarous de- 
figns of his jealous daughter. Is fuch a hero, (he fays, worthy of 
Troy ? no, Troy deferved a nobler conqueror. What will he 
gain, {he aflcs him, by facrificing cither the mother or the fon? 
what but the hatred of Pyrrhus, and the contempt of the people. 
What treatment muft Hermione cxpedt to receive from Pyrrhus, 
if he ihould be weak enough to take her again, after committing fo 
vile an aftion ? Andromache concludes with offering to fubmit 
to any punifhment, if (he is guilty of thofe crimes of which her 
rival accufes her. ** But if I am innocent, fays (he, ought a king 
<< like thee to enter into the paffions of a woman, and adopt her 

The Chorus think thefe expoftulations too haughty in the mouth 
of a defencelefs princefs. Menelaus, enraged, juftifies his condudt 
by political reafons, and keeps firm to the alternative he propofed to 
her at firft ; either (he or her fon muft die. ** What a miferable 
" fituation am I in, cries Andromache! I am undone if I deliberate, 
" and whatever choice I make, it ftill is death. Why, thou bar- 
" barous author of my woes, why doft thou thirft after my life ? 
** Have I fought to deftroy any of thy children ? have I carried 
** fword and fire into th^ dominions? Unwillingly I became the 
" objeft of Pyrrhus^s love } why am I to be punifticd for it ? Why 

VcL. U. Nnn "doft 

45S A N D R O IVT A C H E. 

'' doft thou not revenge it upon him? His is the guilt, not mnt r 
^* but it is becaufe thou feed me helplefs and unfriended that thou 
" takeft up arms againft me. Oh Troy! oh my dear country^ ta 
•* what a fatal extremity am I reduced! muft I be twice a mother 
«* to be doubly wretched ! But why do I deplore thefe mife- 
♦* ries? have I not fcen the loved remains of my Hedtor drag- 
<* ged ignominiouily in the dud? have I not beheld lUon in flames,. 
^ and my Aftyanax thrown from the walls of Pergamus! have I 
** not been forced, like a Have, on board the Grecian veiTels? . and 
•* oh ! to compleat my mifcries, am I not become the wife of 
" Heftor's murderer? Life has no longer any joys for me : my 
«* part fortune, and my prefent ftate, render it odious. Yet ftill 
" one fon remained, one dear tender hope, and this they would 
" tear from me : k is not my life they require, it is his : they fear 
** his vengeance, if he fliould efcape their barbarous rage." She 
fpeaks differently in Racine, and dbubtlefs with more propriety^ 
with regard to Aftyanax. 

" Helas, on>-ne craint point qu'il vengc un-jourfon pere;. 
** On craint qu'il n cfluyat les larmes d'une mere." 

" Yet, purfues (he, I (hould blu/h not to preferve him at the ex- 
♦* pence of my own life. It is done. I q^iit this altar. Behold 
« thy vi<ftim. Strike — Oh, my fon ! for thee I facrifice myfelf : if,. 
" in compaffion, my enemies (hould fparc thy life, remember thy 
" mother, and ftiouldfl thou ever more behold thy father, tell him,. 
" as thou bathefl: his face with, thy tears, tell him the deftiny of thy 
" mother, and ta what excefs (he carried her tendernefs for thee." 
In Racine, (he nobly improves this thought j but it is not ta her foa 
that (he fpeaks : fuch a difcourfe would there have been unfeafonablc- 
In fuch a fituation, expreflion of tendernefs, not leflbns of gratitude,, 
were proper. It is to her confidant that ihe addre(rcs herfclf in, 
this manner. 

" Fais connoitre ^ mon ffls les Heros de fa race: 
" Autant que tu pourras conduis-le fur leur trace*. 
** Dis-lui par quels exploits leurs noms ont cclate* 
*^ Plut6t ce qu'ils ont fait que ce qu'ils ont ^t^. 
" Parle-lui tous les jours des vertus de fon pere, 
^* Et quelquefois auffi parle-lui de fa mere. 
*« Mais qu'il ne fonge plus, Cephize, a nous venger t 
*^ Nous lui laiflbns un maitre : il doit le manager,. 

3 Qa'il 

AND R O M A C H E. '459 

*^ Qu'il ait dc fcs aycux un fouvenir modefte; 
** II eft du fang d'Hedlor j mais il en eft le refte, 
^* Et pour ce refte enfin, j'ai moi-meme en un jour 
<^ Sacrifie monfang, ma haine, & mon amour/' 

If fhe had fpokc to her fon, fhe would have contented herfelf 
with faying) while ihe bathed his face with her tears, 

** O Cendres d'un epoux ! O Troyens, O mon Pere ! 
'* O mon Fils,. que tes jpurs coiitent cher -a ta mere." 

The Chorus, in vain, endeavour to raifc compaflion in Menelaus 
and Hermione for the mother and fon. Menelaus, no lefs bafe 
than cruel, is not aftiamed to own his artifice, and to break his 
word. Being now the mafter of Andromache's fate, he promifes 
nothing in favour of Moloffus, and abandons him to the caprice of 
Hermione. Andromache, thus deceived, calls the Gods to witncfs 
to his perfidy. The Gods no longer aflift her: reduced to defpair, 
fhe loads the Lacedemonians with invedives and imprecations; and 
the gentleft epithet (he gives them, is, that of treacherous. But in 
the time of this poet, did the Lacedemonians moft deferve a 
reproach, which was common to all the Greeks ? or rather, were 
they not at that time embroiled with the Athenians ? If this had 
not been the cafe, would Euripides have attacked them with fuch 
keen ftrokes of fatire ; they on whom he had laviftiedfo many praifes? 
The reader may fee what has been faid upon this fubjcdt, in the firft 
part of this work. 

Menelaus caufes the mother and the fon to be conduded to the 
palace, to be afterwards led to death ; and this interval is filled up 
by the Chorus, who attribute to plurality of wives thofc misfortunes 
which difturb the peace of families. They cxprefs the utmoft ab- 
horrence of the cruelty of Hermione and her father; and lament the 
fate of Andromache and MoloflTus. 

The young prince and his mother appear again upon the ftage ; 
and probably in funeral habits, like Megara and her children in the 
Hercuks mad. At leaft Andromache has her hands bound. Their 
complaints make a part of the interlude ; and are thofe natural ex- 
clamations which approaching death put into the mouths of the 
ancients. The mother's laa>entadons are noble and pathetic ; thofe 
of the child full of fimplicity. Andromache preffes her fon clofe 
to her bofom, that they may not be feparated in death; but tender- 
nefs at length prevails over pride, and (he defires this beloved fan to^ 

N n n 2 fall 


fall at the feet of Menclaus, who is prefent. Menelaus continue* 
unmoved as a rock, to which he compares himfelf, 


The adlion being brought to this point, the arrival of Peleus, who 
is firft perceived by the Chorus, produces a great revolution. PeleuSr 
a venerable old man, full of a noble firmncfs, the hufband of a God- 
defs, the father of Achilles, and the grandfather of Pyrrhus ; and, 
by all thefe titles refpedtable to Mfenelaus, forces him at laft to yield; 
but not without a iharp conteft betwen them. This is one of thofe 
eager quarrels in which the Greek tragic writers were fond of 
difplayingthe whole art of the dialogue, to pleafe a republican audi- 
ence, who were naturally free, and great difputers. But, to fay all, 
this is one of thofe fcenes, which, not withftanding. this art, is inca- 
pable of pleafing us, becaufe it (hocks our manners, and is inconfifl:'' 
ent with the rank and majefty of fovereiga princes in our age : and 
indeed the two Greeks are no more ipjiring of their rude epithets 
to each other, than of arguments. This gives us a terrible pre- 
judice againft the ancients. The fubjcd: of their converfation is as 
follows : 

Peleus, gready furprifed to fee Andromache bound, and led to 
death, with her fon, appears fuddenly before their eyes, like a divinity 
who comes to deliver them, from this imminent danger. The Tro- 
jan princels relates to hioi, in few words,.the barbarous conduA of 
Hermionc, and her motives for it. All this is natural and afFeding ^ 
for Andromache, falling at the feet of Peleus, concludes her fuppli- 
cations with thefe words, fo beautiful from their iimplicity, " They. 
**• have taken advantage of my hufband s abfence, and of my help- 
'* le(s condition, to murder me and an infant who never wronged 
** them. It is to implore thy compaflion, oh^princel that I fall at 
<' thy feet ; for alas ! thefe fetters which thou beholdeft, hinder me 
•* from embracing them." 

There is the fame fimpUcity in the following lines of Virgil:. 

** Ecce trahebatur paffis Priameia virgo 
*" Crinibus a^temploCaflandra, adytifque Minervse. 
' Ad coelum tendens ardentia lumina fruftra, 
'< Lumina s nam teneras afcebant vincula palmas.*' 

** Oh prince, continues Andromache, fave us, I conjure thee, irt' 
** the name of the Gods 1 fave a mother from a fate fo horrid, the dif- 

** grace 

A N E) R O M A C H E. 461 

^' grace of which will reflcdt back on thee/' Peleus immediately 
orders Andromache to be unbound. Menelaus haughtily forbids 
it. The former alks him by what right he takes upon him to aft 
the fovereign in the dominions of another prince. Menelaus pleads 
the privilege of a kinfman> and a friend ; which* he fays, renders 
the royal authority as well as good or bad fortune common to them 
both. From words full of refentment, they proceed to menaces. 
The king of Sparta declares that he will not releafe his vidtim; and 
the king of Theffaly threatens to give him a ftroke upon the head 
with his fceptre. We have already had a» * inftance of fuch. a 
threat, which is in the true manner of Homer. At length Peleus 
makes a fet fpeech, in which he reproaches his adverfary with his 
weaknefs and pufiUanimity, for fuffering a bafc Phrygian to carry 
away his wife ftonv his dominions, and for believing Helen pru- 
dent enough to be left to her own condudt. " For how fliould 
" Helen be chafte, fays he, in a city, ('tis Sparta he means) where 
" cuftom allowayoung virgins to enter tournaments, habited like 
** Amazons P^-f The original here defcribes the Lacedemonians ex- 
actly as Virgil has done in the firft book of the Eneid, ver. 3 14. 
where he reprefents. Venus appearing to her fon^ Eneas, in the Carthage. 

*^ Virginis os habitumque ferens & virgihls arma. 

** Spartanae : vel qualis equos Threifla fatigat 

<* Harpalyce, volucremque fugd praevcrtitur Hebrum. 

** Namque humeris de more habilem fufpenderat arcum 

** Venatrix,.dederatque comam diffundere ventis, 

•* Nuda genuj nodbque finus coHedta fluentes/' 

And in verfc 336, 

*' Virginibus Tyriis mos eft geftare pharetram: 
** Purpureoque alte furas vincire cothurno /* 

This was the drefs of the Lacedemonian virgins, who, by a law 
of Lycurgus, were taught* the raoft robuft bodily exercifes. But 
the other cities of Greece did not approve of a cuftom fo little fuit- 
cd to the modefty of the fex ; and it is this indecency with which 

♦ It is in the Iphigenia in AuHs. Me- 1 1 have thus exprefled the games of the 
ncFaus threatens a flave with the fame treat- race, and by the term Amazonian Jbaiit, 
ment. the drcfs » io which they were perfornied. 

Pete Us 


Pclcus reproaches Mcnelaus. He afterwards draws a very difad* 
vantagcous pidlure of Helen, but conformable enough to the truth. 
AH the mifcries llie was the caufc of to the Greeks and Trojans-; 
the lofs of fo many heroes-j the tears of fo many mothers; even the 
death of Achilles; and many other calamities, ho attributes to Me* 
nelaus alone ; to a hufband who was bafe enough to purchafe back, 
at fo high a price, a fury * whom he ought to have left to the Trojans 
with execrations ; nay, to have rewarded the raviftiersfor keeping her ^ 
in their hands. Thefe are nearly the terms which Peleus makes ufe of. 
Nor is the old monarch more tender of the honour of Menelaus, 
in point of courage: he reprefents him as a hero but in* name, who 
alone of all the princes returned without a wound ; and who was 
fo far from ftainicig his armour with blood, that he kept it carefully 
concealed, and brought no other weapons from Troy than thofe he 
had carried thither. Very different, fays he, from the Grecian 
heroes, who inherited the armour of their vanquiflied foes; or who, 
through efteem for each other's valour, mutually exchanged it, as 
Ajax and HeAor did *t** He adds, that it was contrary to his in- 
clination that Pyrrhus contra<5ted an alliance with Menelaus. He 
places before his eyes the facriiice of Iphigenia, an inhuman deed 
which he forced Agamemnon to commit; and without a blufh 
could infift upon a. brother's facrificing his own daughter, to recover 
an unfaithful wife. He charges it upon him as a crime, his not 
having killed this infamous wife, when he got her again Into liis 
power ; and his fuffcring himfelf to be won by her falfe careiTes : 
and laftly, he fills him with fliamc and confufion, on account of 
the bafe adlion he now furprifed him in: he infifts upon his taking 
back Hermione, and delivering Theflaly from fuch a fury, and 
threatens him with a revenger in the perfon of Moloffus, thefon of 

After a rcfledlion of the Chorus, who think Peleus too fevere in 
his refentment^ Menelaus anfwers, and pays invcdlive with in- 
veiSlive. He tells Peleus, that he (hews but little wifdom to quar- 
rel thus with an ally for the fake of a foreigner, whom he ought 
to have baniQied beyond the Bhaiis, as being defcended from 
the enemies of Greece, and, in part, the caufe of Achilles* 
death. How (hameful, he fays, for the father of that hero to 
receive the widow of Heftor into his dominions, and fuffer 
her to give him grandfons ; a difgrace which Menelaus, like a 

• Sec the fame exprcflions in the Iphigc- f See the Ajax of Sophocles, Vol. II. 

■ia m Aulis, A& II. Scene 2. Vol. 1. 



true friend, would have waflied away in the blood of Andromache 
and Moloflus. For, fliould Hermione, continues he, be fo unfortu- 
nate as to have no iffue, wouldft thou put the fcepter into the hands 
of aTrojan flave? If thou hadft a daughter fo contcmptuoufly treated' 
as Hermione has been, wouldft thou not efpoufe her interefts ? He 
after wards juftifieshimfelf, butflightly, on the article of his courage; 
a point which a Frenchman would have fettled without fo much 
argument. As for Helen, Menelaus attributes all her misfortunes 
to the Gods ? and thus, with a finglc ftroke, erafes all that calumny 
can alledge againft her : he even aflerts, that the fiege of Troy was 
very advantageous to the Greeks, by producing them fo many he- 
roes. He applauds himfelf for not making any attempt upon the